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Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Latest on Online Copyright Theft

Last week, USA Today provided an informative update as to what’s going on with online copyright infringement – i.e., theft – lately.

The entire article is worth reading, but four key points are worth highlighting here:

• In the spring, while pirates off the coast of Somalia were getting all the high-seas attention, four Swedish pirates of a totally different sort were being sentenced to pay more than $3 million in fines and serve a year in the brig. Their crime: running The Pirate Bay, one of the Web's most-visited file-sharing communities. The Pirate Bay is part of the trend of peer-to-peer technologies used to illegally swap music, videos and applications. Public sites such as Pirate Bay, IsoHunt and Mininova index and track BitTorrent files, which allow computers to connect and download content. People go to these sites to search for and grab music or videos.

• The legal ramifications of peer-to-peer file-sharing are still being worked out, but copyright infringement is a crime. Anyone who widely distributes copyrighted material runs a risk of being fined — or worse. Part of the appeal of peer-to-peer file-sharing is that it is difficult to shut down because pirated files are never kept on a single server that can easily be targeted by law enforcement.

• While The Pirate Bay and other public sites get the most news coverage, the momentum now is toward the private torrent communities: Websites that are accessible by invitation only, have strict rules about sharing and etiquette and usually focus on a single type of pirated content, such as music or films.

• And despite growing popularity of legal media sites such as iTunes, Hulu and Rhapsody, worldwide media piracy still looms large. Scott Harrer, brand director at P2P intelligence and security firm Tiversa, said his company monitors more than 1.5 billion peer-to-peer searches a day, up from 500 million just one year ago.

It is critical to keep in mind which groups get hurt in terms of copyright infringement. It’s not just big businesses. It’s individual creators, innovators and the many small businesses that work in or are tied to industries such as music, publishing and movies.

Raymond J. Keating
Chief Economist
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

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