AntiPiracy Group Not So Sure About Piracy Claims

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Enforcement of copyright is essential according to some, but the reasons why are often based more on emotion than fact. One lobby group, in an attempt to break into the ‘fact’ sphere, is having such a hard time finding any, they’ve decided to crowdsource the effort.

Piracy is bad, it’s killing industries, costing people jobs and millions – if not billions and trillions – of dollars in losses. It depresses sales, hurts innovation and harms the ability to create the next generation. It’s vital for national interests and economic survival requires an at-all-costs approach to protection of intellectual property.

The above are just some of the myriad claims that have been made over the years by industry associations (which, let’s remember, are private organizations set up to promote certain members of certain industries). Despite a lack of hesitation in promulgating these… sponsored statements, reality has very rarely matched the lobby-groups’ strident proclamations. Nevertheless, even though the actions proscribed by the groups happen anyway, the sky never actually seems to get around to falling, yet governments still fall over themselves to answer the clarion-call of these paid mouthpieces.

And while Abraham Lincoln may have said “You can fool some of the people all of the time”, James Turber noted “you can fool too many of the people too much of the time.” Here the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) seems to agree, and thinks the time for fooling might be over.

As a nod to the Hargreaves report, and it’s statement that policy in such matters should be evidence rather than lobbying based, FAST has decided it should get on the evidence bandwagon.

In an email to IP blog IPKat, FAST’s General Counsel, Julian Heathcote Hobbins, has asked if anyone knows of any evidence, be it papers or studies, that indicate an increase in sales if there’s a reduction in infringement. The IPKat’s alter-ego ‘Merpel’ put it plainer.

“is there any published evidence that sales of legitimate IP products rise where there is (more) enforcement of IP rights against infringers?”

One would think that if anyone would have such information, it would be an organization like FAST whose business is about promoting enforcement. That they don’t suggests that there is probably a shortage of such evidence available – if any.

Then again, we are talking about a company which is so on-the-ball, its chief exec posted an Op-Ed in 2010 talking about how GGF had bought TPB a year earlier (it never happened) and that court orders shouldn’t be needed for them to do what they want. Of course, FAST mainly operates by paying people who have grudges against their (current or former) employer, so their evidence will always be faultless and incontrovertible.

That the reverse is true does seem to be the trend in fact. Major industry groups have admitted that enforcement actions tend to alienate customers, and a number of companies have found increased sales through giveaways. While I’m happy to point this out to FAST, if anyone does happen to know of some evidence showing increased sales thanks to enforcement, you can let them know at [email protected].