By Global RADAR
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has a reputation for providing cross-border assistance to countries in a variety of areas, all aimed at promoting the greater health and well-being of the global financial system. In response to the growing quantity and overall quality of threats found within it’s the borders and beyond, the DOJ has begun to take a more thorough, hands-on approach to the aid it provides to its international allies, leading the charge in one notoriously troublesome area in particular for many of the world’s lesser developed countries: Piracy. By definition, piracy is defined as the illegal copying of licensed and copyrighted materials from the Internet. This relatively broad definition has given many in today’s society, adolescents in particular, the impression that this activity simply pertains to the downloading of movies and music from online websites, when in actuality its scope and effects are far more harmful that one might think. The trend also pertains to software developed and produced in a multitude of industries, many of which offer pirates and those downloading these illicit files advanced capabilities for free or a far-discounted cost, typically through the ever-popular “bit torrent” file sharing platforms. Still not convinced this is a major issue? In 2014, the Institute for Policy Innovation estimated that the United States economy “loses $12.5 billion in revenue and other economic measures each year due to online piracy” in the music industry alone (Insurance laws, 2014). Couple this with the other sectors affected, in addition to the technology boom that has erupted in recent years, and it is very likely that these figures have multiplied exponentially in the years leading up to now.
Music theft is the largest form of piracy in the world today, leading to significant losses in jobs and wages within the industries affected, while also costing the U.S. government and the governments of many countries abroad a fortune in lost tax revenue. As of 2017, it has been estimated that “sound recording piracy leads to the loss of 71,060 jobs to the U.S. economy”, while also costing U.S. federal, state and local governments “a minimum of $422 million in tax revenues annually” (RIAA, 2017). In addition to it being illegal to violate the terms of copyrights and trademarks, opponents of piracy maintain that these acts are especially malicious in that they limit profits for production companies and the staff they employ, while also reducing the amount of money that key players in these productions such as the artists and programmers themselves, respectively, can ultimately obtain. The piracy trend has begun to impact more and more countries across the globe, as technology of some variety has been made available to all social classes in almost every region of the world. The aforementioned statistics are staggering, especially when considering that the United States has taken a stern approach to combatting piracy through legislation and enforcement via imprisonment and large fines for those partaking in activities of this nature. With that being said, the piracy epidemic has become far worse in countries without the infrastructure or adequate enforcement measures in place that the U.S. currently has.
Online piracy remains one of the largest issues facing the financial world today, and is a trend that does not appear to be slowing down. What makes this trend different from others that can be handled somewhat easier is that piracy is often a tricky form of crime to contain, as “pirate sites and services tend to operate in multiple jurisdictions and are purposefully set up to evade law enforcement” (Van der Sar, 2017). International cooperation is key in this regard, thus rather than sitting back and letting the economies of other countries fall victim to the effects of piracy, the U.S. has stepped up to the plate, leading a series of training programs for investigators and officials from countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey over the course of November aimed at combatting online piracy.
The article “U.S. government teaches anti-piracy skills around the globe”, cited in BSA News Now on December 18th, explains that with piracy developing into a significant problem in Eastern Europe, the program lead by one of the more influential wings of the U.S. government set out to update participants on several important matters. These included legal issues that surround both the investigation and prosecution of online piracy, as well as common themes found in past piracy cases and convictions. The DOJ believes that after receiving adequate training through its seminars, local law enforcement within these countries will be better equipped to spot and subsequently deal with these problems. Also on hand for the seminars was the Director of the DOJ’s CCIPS Cybercrime Laboratory, who stressed the importance of computer forensics in solving cases of this nature, ultimately providing participants with forensic tools that could be implemented immediately following the conclusion of the conference. Another key note added by the presenters, a group that included law enforcement professionals from around the world, was that money laundering and tax offenses could be used in conjunction with piracy charges in order to inflict tougher penalties on criminals. According to transcripts from the training sessions, “Participants were encouraged to consider the use of statutes such as money laundering and tax evasion, in addition to those protecting copyrights and trademarks, since these offenses are often punished more severely than standalone intellectual property crimes” (Van der Sar, 2017). While still a work in progress, the U.S. DOJ’s interventions are likely to be quite beneficial for countries afflicted by piracy issues, and given their effectiveness, more conferences of this variety are likely to be scheduled in the near future.