Pirates - Part Three

Pirates - Part Three

A vendor sells pirated software at a shopping center in China

It has nothing to do with robbery on the high seas but it is a form of piracy that's becoming more widespread than ever.

In the third part of this series on pirates, Nick Rankin enters cyber space to explore the world of intellectual piracy - the stealing of ideas.

Part Three - Mind-thieves

The origins of copyright can be traced back to medieval times, where scholars would write curses in their books so that if anyone was to copy what they wrote - they would also copy the curse and be cursed.

However, copyright has now reached a digital age and the internet has transformed how we share information.

From illegal downloads of music and video, to illicit DVDs and counterfeit designer goods - there isn't anything that's not being replicated illegally.

For this episode, Nick travels from London to Hong Kong, finding out how the theft and reproduction of ideas and goods has become big business.

Protecting an idea

Intellectual property covers a number of things like patents, designs, trademarks and copyright.

Copying a person's ideas or products without their permission is known as intellectual piracy.

Protecting an individual's creativeness, stops another person trying to earn money off the back of their idea.

Intellectual property accounted for around 40% of the growth of the US economy last year and in Britain it was around 10%.

An example of intellectual property can be something like Winnie the Pooh, the teddy bear originally created by the writer AA Milne and the illustrator EH Shepard in the 1920s, which is owned by the Walt Disney corporation.

Disney uses the Winnie the Pooh brand to merchandise almost everything, from books to clothing.

Isn't piracy just freedom of information?

The possibilities of sharing files on the internet, be it data, music or movies, now defies the idea of a monopoly.

Those against the idea see piracy as a method of 'not paying' and those in favour simply see themselves as 'information sharers'.

The problem is that people don't want to pay high legitimate prices, so they often go to pirate sites to download material.

The British band Radiohead has been quite revolutionary in trying to get rid of music piracy.

They gave away their seventh album "In Rainbows" on the internet and let the public decide the price.

If you get the product at a price you are prepared to pay - then this will hopefully get rid of piracy.

Cost of piracy

The US economy claims that in 2007 it lost £58 billion pounds and 273,000 jobs due to international piracy.

However, the United States were themselves the biggest intellectual pirates in the 19th century.

British authors like Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had to fight to be paid any royalties for their written work in America.

It seems like yesterday's pirates are today's enforcers.

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