Piracy and Intellectual Property Theft in the Internet Era

Piracy and Intellectual Property Theft in the Internet Era

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7492-7.ch006
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Stealing ideas is not something new, but stealing and transporting ideas in a massive amount has become possible in the era of the internet. Based on the frameworks of criminological theory/thesis, this chapter intends to elaborate intellectual property theft and piracy in cyberspace. Contemporary cases of intellectual property theft and piracy are used to illustrate the blurred line between victims and offenders. The impacts of related information technology should be carefully appraised, as more and more intellectual properties are in digital format.
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Basic Elements of Crime and Socio-Technical Gap

In their theory of crime, Cohen and Felson (1979) point out three elements of a crime incident: a suitable target, a motivated offender, and the absence of capable guardians. A suitable target is something valuable to potential offenders, and the target must be easy enough to be removed. Although crime rate is the highest among young males, motivated offenders can be anybody in the population, if an adequate opportunity is present. The guardians against crime do not necessarily refer to law enforcement. Instead, the owner of the targeted property, friends and neighbors of the property owners serve better roles of capable guardians that discourage potential offenders. In the scenario of burglary, potential perpetrators probably would less likely to choose houses that the owners are present or their friends/neighbors pay attention to. In the business settings, for another example, an office suite’s receptionists who watch people entering the office can serve as the role of guardian. In sum, for a crime to occur, the above three elements have to emerge.

There is little doubt that industry has incentives to make their products lighter, more portable, more convenient, and more added functions and values, but this tendency naturally leads to some unwanted consequences of the products, such as suitable targets to theft. However, the social system (e.g., laws, justice agencies) usually simply reacts to the consequences of technological advancements pushed by industry and business. That is, technology proactively runs at the front, and the social system passively chases behind and (hopefully) fixes problems and challenges. In the era of Internet, the discrepancy between fast-growing Internet and information technology and the slow-reacting social system in the virtual space has created a cybergap in which crimes emerge (Huang and Wang, 2009). Explicitly, many more new digital IP are valuable targets with little to no meaningful guardians that trigger motivation of potential offenders in the cyberspace. The following section provides a description of IP theft and piracy. The discussion of IP and piracy in the present article is focused within the arena of those using digital technology, with an intention to compare and contrast several major incidents.

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