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Internet Law and Piracy Essays

Info: 3125 words (13 pages) Law Essay
Published: 3rd Jul 2019

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Jurisdiction(s): UK Law

Does the internet facilitate or hinder control of the crime
of piracy?


The question of whether the internet facilitates or hinders
the control of piracy is three pronged. Firstly, it must be acknowledged that
the historical development of piracy and how technology has contributed to the
ease of music and other forms of media reproduction distribution is not a new
phenomenon. This therefore means that specific reasons that set aside the
internet as either a hinderer or facilitator of crime control require to be
identified in order to fully illustrate the single handed impact of this
technology on the crime of piracy.

Secondly, copyright protection law requires not only to be
examined in terms of existing rules against copyright theft, but the specific
treaties aimed at piracy within the digital era require detailed analysis.
This also goes hand in hand with the examination of procedures specific to
internet crime that are carried out by the international enforcement groups and
government organisations that give the law their teeth.

Thirdly and finally, as the question relates to whether or
not the internet facilitates or hinders crime control, there will be an attempt
to explore the vague possibility that the internet may possibly be used as a
piracy prevention medium.

Part One – Identifying Piracy

Piracy is the breach of copyright that is perpetrated by the
illegal reproduction of, most commonly, music and video. The major
technological shifts are easily ascertainable as they tend to coincide with the
enactment of legislative amendments to tackle new mediums and the inauguration
of international institutions to protect and enforce the cause. An example of
such an institution is the International Federation of the Phonographic
Industry (IFPI), which was set up in 1933,
and 1971, as a major turning point in video
technology, is the year of amendment of the Berne Convention and the Geneva
Phonograms Convention.

This trend of tackling new technologies with new laws is also
seen with the WCT and the WPPT, which were enacted by the WIPO to tackle piracy in the
electronic era. Piracy is now more widespread than ever with the use of the
internet as the primary access and delivery point. The problem is an age old irony
in the law that facilitates the perpetuation of this behaviour by allowing the
sale and supply of recording and copying equipment but do not permit
reproduction for a purpose other than that permitted by the owner of the
intellectual property right.

Part Two: >From cassette tapes to the internet, a brief
overview of pirate recording

1. Justifying the creation of a crime of

The typical set-up for hard copy distributions that began
largely with cassettes and is now more prevalent with CD-R remains extremely
varied in that it ranges from sophisticated crime syndicates with the ability
to access films, music and computer games prior to legitimate general release,
to the seemingly innocent copying of cassettes and CD’s for distribution to
friends and family.

The UK’s Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, carry a two-tiered motive for
copyright protection, which is the moral overtone of recognition of authorship and the right to yield benefit in
the form of financial remuneration. Aside from this, it is however
clear that motives for piracy differ greatly. On the one hand, there is the
average individual seeking to save the cost of the product on the high street.
On the other hand, organised crime, at the serious end of the scale, represents
far higher dangers than the mere placement of the music and video industry into
a position of lost profits that jeopardise future film production.

The piracy concept, whose illegality is not entirely clear to
hardliners who resent the profits of record labels, becomes more than obvious
when taken into consideration with the dangers of organised crime. This
clearly designates piracy as a global danger that increases the financial
capabilities of terrorists.

2. Types of internet piracy distribution

There are three main types of piracy distribution via the
internet. The first in the web file transfer protocol (ftp), which is the
process of creating a link-up to the site address that plays pirated music when
accessed. Such files can only be accessed or
played when the there is a link-up to the net but with the advent of
broadband, the disadvantages of this were effectively eradicated on account of
ability to access without disruption to the phone line. The creation of
unlimited access subscription, together with faster download speeds, solved the
problem of limitations and periodic buffering that interrupted free flow of
real-time file transfers.

A second method of illegal distribution is that of the more
damaging, illegal music providers, such as free download sites that generated
revenue from separate advertising enticed by the huge volumes of traffic
through their sites. These often contained huge databases of music that were
easily downloadable. Similarly, P2P network up-loaders actively supply music
and DVDs on their own sites for the benefit of others to download.

Finally there is the medium of hard copy CD-R distribution.
Litigation records also show that the vast majority of raids and lawsuits are
carried out against the more regular form of pirate operations where tangible
mediums are created for the black market. Further to this, despite clear requirements for effective
remedies to act as a deterrent to the practice of copyright infringement, the
overwhelming cost of seizure and destruction of pirated goods is inhibiting to
the cause. It may at first seem that such
activities are not in keeping with the analysis of the internet as a medium
that possibly hinders or facilitates the control of this crime. However, it
must be remembered that the internet as a medium of electronic transmission is
an ideal way in which crime syndicates can transmit entire albums,
instantaneously overseas, in order for foreign operations to manufacture
thousands of copies of their own.

3. The power of internet piracy over
earlier forms

As well as the process of instantaneous transmission
facilitated by email attachments for the purpose of sending music to be
distributed in CD-R form, piracy that is facilitated by the internet phenomena
differs profoundly from the more traditional methods of piracy distribution on
account of its intangible counterpart. The first reason is the simple fact
that there is instant access from the comfort of ones own home to remote files. This has effectively turned the
concept of illegal activity on its head by making it EASIER than the usual
legal act of purchasing music and DVDs in a store. Prior to the internet,
those who sought pirate copies of videos and cassettes had to physically seek
the distributors whereas, until the enforcement of copyright laws in the
internet in 2004, they were effectively more readily
available than legal high street mediums. Ease of access led to a huge slump
in media revenue in 2003 and 2004.

The second reason for the profound difference between
internet and analogue piracy is that, old considerations of the analogue
mediums such as, poor quality, illegal video cassettes that spoil your viewing
pleasure, are no longer an issue as digital
reproduction from the internet is capable of producing perfect copies of both
movies and music. This is however more a result of the digital era as opposed
to the internet, when coupled with the concept that a single track, when
uploaded, has a global reach, it becomes clear that the internet, as a
world-wide medium for the distribution of near perfect reproductions, which is
a highly dangerous tool that greatly hinders control of the crime of piracy.

Part Two: The fight back – enforcement of copyright law in
the face of the internet

1. International Agreements in place,
general application to copyright theft

There are four international treaties that
currently protect the interests of copyright owners. The first is the Berne
Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works that is administered by
the WIPO and is the main protector of rights of authors
and composers to authorise or prohibit reproduction, widespread communication
and adaptation of their works. Secondly, the Rome Convention for the
Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting
Organisations is the treaty that protects the record producers
themselves by creating rights for payment for the broadcast of products under
their labels. The third general international provision is that of the
Universal Copyright Convention (UCC) which also protects
authors and other copyright proprietors against unauthorised reproduction.
Finally, there is the TRIPS Agreement, which is administered by the World
Trade Organisation (WTO) and protects all trade related aspects of
intellectual property rights and binds obliged WTO members to the provisions of
the above Berne Convention. The treaty also provides for a right to authorise
or prohibit commercial rental of works and also sets out detailed requirements
relating to enforcement such as the requirement for remedies and procedures
that adequately deter piracy.

2 Treaties passed as
reaction to growing technologies

(a) The Geneva
Phonograms Convention

The Geneva Convention for the Protection of
Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorised Duplication of their Phonograms the
Geneva Phonograms Convention,
came into force in 1971 and was created to combat the increasing phenomena of music piracy. It is
more in tune with traditional methods of distribution, such as unauthorised
import and distribution but the internet acts as a potential way round this by
facilitating electronic transmission.

(b) The reaction
to the electronic era, the WCT and the WPPT

There are two WIPO Copyright Treaties which are
specifically drafted for the purpose of bringing copyright theft regulation
into the digital age and therefore merit the greatest attention. The WIPP
Copyright Treaty (WCT) protects authors and the WIPO Performances and
Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) protects performers and phonogram producers.
The main rights granted extend the copyright theft notion to distributions of
computer programs, unauthorised internet use and the protection of electronic
methods of protection such as locked documents that hinder ability to remove or
alter programs.

3. Enforcement of the Laws

Unauthorised distribution of media products was
always illegal on account of the above international treaties and 2004 saw a
concerted effort on the part of IFPI after a slow reaction by
governments to react to the obvious drop in record sales that became greatly
exasperated by increased technological capabilities of broadband in the
downloading of music and video files.

Since 2004, there has been a huge increase in
internet piracy prosecutions, which are a direct result of the work of
international organisations representing the cause. Further to this, a number
of initiatives, designed to curtail public use of pirate services, have also
been implemented across the world.

3. Dedication to the control
of piracy, the International Federation of the
Phonographic Industry (IFPI)

The IFPI is an organisation that was set up by
the International Standards Organisation (ISO) in order to represent the
recording industry in over 75 countries that contain nearly 1450 record
labels. Among its priorities is the specific focus to concentrate on the
prosperity of the recording industry in the new digital era. In order to
achieve this objective, its activities include, anti-piracy enforcement,
government lobbying to the cause and litigation against copyright thieves. An
example is of a crackdown that took place in Spain
following an IFPI circulation by the Spanish Recording Industry Group, AFYVE,
of IFPI’s Copyright Use and Security Guides. This awareness campaign, which
was targeted at Spanish universities, aided in teaching educational
institutions of the dangers of transmitting copyright material. The crackdown
was on an operation that was intruding on University networks to transmit
thousands of pirated music and video software.

(a) The IFPI
coding mechanism and the internet

The IFPI encourages use of an International
Standard Recording Code (ISRC)
which is encoded onto a product thereby providing it with a unique serial
number. The use of this method is an ideal tool for the identification of
illegal copying in pirate industries. However, it is clear that this method of
tagging has drawbacks when taking into consideration the phenomenon of
internet piracy. This is because internet piracy churns out millions of
illegal copies of music and music videos that are scattered all over the
world. The key to enforcement no longer lies in the identification of the copy
as illegal, but in the coordinated location of website engineers responsible
for uploads and illegal download services and the immediate shutdown of their

(b) Government

One of the key methods used by the IFPI of
lobbying for government to enforce and even create their own copyright laws is
provided via the regular compilation of market research and global industry
statistics that illustrate record sales declines as a result of pirate
activities. The way in which this is channelled is via a number of regional
offices that are located across the globe and they work closely together with
national groups. It is however true that all of this cannot work without
effective enforcement mechanisms that will countermand the effect that the
internet has on hindering crime control.

Part Three: Possible use of the internet as a
medium for the prevention of electronic piracy?

Following vast crackdowns, there have been a
number of instantaneous closures of illegal sites dedicated to piracy
of music and film but many still remain hidden without search engine guides.
This was clearly a form of reducing the power of the internet as a medium for
piracy but would it be possible to use the internet to aid in law enforcement?
In truth, the only strength that could be drawn from the internet’s power is
its possible use as a method for detecting transmissions and intercepting them
via a cyber police scan. However, there are a myriad of human rights factors
to take into consideration, especially in relation to privacy under Article 8
of the European Convention for Human Rights. In any case, where one route for
the transmission of albums and DVDs is located, the pirates will simply create


There is no way of preventing pirate
transmissions via the web. On the contrary, it has been established that the
internet is a powerful tool for the facilitation of instant access to entire
albums for networks of colluding crime syndicates.

Analysis of the ways in which piracy may be
carried out via the net also shows that mechanisms of enforcement are all
geared towards reducing the power of this medium as opposed to exploiting it by
creating a cyber watchdog.

Finally the sheer power of the internet in its
global reach, convenience of use and transmission of perfect quality copies,
make it the most threatening addition to copyright infringement tools, thereby
rendering it a clear hindrance to control of the crime of piracy. It is also
worth noting that this hindrance will only increase as the sophistication of
the information highway will one day facilitate more widespread downloading of
full DVDs.



  • Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary
    and Artistic Works
  • Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers,
    Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations
  • Universal Copyright Convention (UCC)
  • TRIPS Agreement
  • Geneva Convention for the Protection of Producers
    of Phonograms Against Unauthorised Duplication of their Phonograms
  • WIPO Copyright Treaty
  • WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty
  • Copyright Patents and Designs Act 1988

Text Book Publications

  • D Icove, K Seger and W von Storch, Computer
    Crime: A Crimefighter’s Handbook, (O’Reilly & Associates, Inc, 1995)
  • D Doswell and G L Simons, Fraud and Abuse of IT
    Systems, (NCC Publication, 1986)
  • E Casey, Handbook of Computer Crime
    Investigation, (Academic Press, 2002)
  • B Sterling, The Hacker Crackdown. Law and
    Disorder on the Electronic Frontier, (Penguin Books, 1994)
  • P Grabosky, R G Smith, G Dempsey, Electronic
    Theft, Unlawful Acquisition in Cyberspace, ( Cambridge University
    Press, 2001)
  • N Barret, Digital Crime, Policing the
    Cybernation, (Kogan Page, 1997)

Internet Resources

  • World Intellectual Property Organisation http://www.wipo.int
  • UNESCO http://www.unesco.org
  • The World Trade Organisation http://www.wto.org
  • The International Federation of the Phonographic
    Industry 1930 saw the invention of cellophane tape that also lead
    to innovations in the tape recorder, invented in 1892

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