Pirates don’t always speak the same language…

Piracy is a worldwide concern, yet interestingly; there is no true universal meaning of “copyrighted material.” Each country has its own separate laws to protect or release media and software to the public. Many countries have strict laws against piracy that provide artists and developers with the legal ability to prosecute those who pirate their material. However not all governments have incentive to protect copyrighted materials, which can cause problems for the country itself and for those with stricter regulations. Thus, while you don’t need a criminal justice degree to understand them, exploring some of the measures being taken to prevent international piracy requires a brief explanation of the difficulties in dealing with unequal copyright laws.

Countries such as the United States have a large incentive to protect media and software. The entertainment industry generates a significant amount of money through the sale of various types of media, which also in turn provides the country with the funds to protect the products created. This drives the market on since distribution is mediated. Developers and artists can produce knowing that they will receive profits for their work. The more work that is produced, the more incentive the government has to continue protecting the work, it’s a cycle.

Contrarily, governments in foreign countries that have underdeveloped domestic production have no incentive to protect the market. Anyone who wants a product is able to distribute it, meaning that there is no economic demand for these products. These countries are known as “one disc countries.” This term refers to the facts that one disk of software meets the needs of the entire country. This in turn brings in no revenue to the domestic developers, the foreign country supplying the software or the government. As such, the governments of many of these countries feel there is no need to invest funds in protecting goods that offer them no return.

Unfortunately, this allows certain countries to perpetually produce pirated materials, resulting in huge losses for the artists and developers who created the product. The problem is difficult enough to correct and manage domestically, but it becomes exacerbated when one foreign country deals with another. Software developers calculate their prices according to production costs, distribution costs, government protection costs and a specific profit margin. However when dealing with a foreign country where there is no domestic protection of copyrighted material, these software developers lose significant amounts of money.

To recuperate some of these losses, the United States, in particular, will impose tariffs on these trades. This is only one method of controlling international piracy. Another suggested method is to have the more controlled country set apart funding to help the local government of a country with more relaxed standards establish more control. The idea is that more domestic control in lax countries will create more demand for the products, causing the market in the foreign country to make a profit.

One extreme method that some countries take to deter piracy is censoring the Internet. Those in the information technology (particularly those who deal with foreign customers) are sure to be familiar with the term “the Great Firewall of China“, which allows the Chinese government to keep an eye on all media and censor every Internet site being accessed from within the country. While censoring material rarely seems like a good option, some have begun to consider if using a similar approach (which would essentially involve spying on people’s online activities) may in fact help track and prevent online piracy.

On the other hand, some countries that have high domestic standards of protecting intellectual property have banned together under the World Trade Organization. Doing so is one step toward regulating international infringement of copyright laws in a particular country. This united front can help prevent pirates in lower standard countries from going country-to-country in search of new material to steal.

These countries have also taken their solutions right down to the products themselves. Many videogames (as well as several other forms of media) now come with a product key that correlates directly to a single software CD. Without that key, the product will not work, nor can the CD be used in another device with a different key. This method forces consumers to purchase what they want and use it only within the bounds that the producers of the product have set. As a result, people are prevented from buying materials, making copies of them and selling them on sites such as eBay or Amazon.

DVDs are also being encrypted to prevent pirated copies from being sold. This encryption allows for consumers to copy the DVD to their computer without any problems, but they cannot transfer their copy to any other device or change the format. Changing the format into a torrent is what allows these movies to be downloaded over the Internet. Many of these companies are also selling a single digital copy of their DVDs that allows consumers to download to portable devices, but they cannot be used on any other device or transferred to a different computer.

The encryption and protection on the hardware directly affects the ability to pirate the software. Without being able to transfer formats or duplicate the hardware, people in other countries cannot access the information, except through legitimate means. When acquiring materials through legitimate means increases, the country then receives enough funds to protect these materials and develop more, causing the process to become a cycle. This in turn helps the domestic production in these countries and bolsters their individual economy.

Clearly a major concern for software developers is how to protect the products they create. The ability to produce and distribute more merchandise in the future, and thus further the success of their companies, relies proportionally on the ability to protect what has already been developed. Piracy is posing a serious threat to not only to the domestic economies, but to foreign economies as well. Thus, to protect themselves, countries are adapting by encrypting hardware and monitoring the direct trading methods.

Written by Marie Owens

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As a prospective law student in Washington state, Marie Owens is particularly interested in criminal law and gender issues. She writes to promote criminal justice education, and teaches martial arts in her spare time. She is the content writer for www.criminaljusticedegree.net.