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description Journal article public Journal of International Commercial Law and Technology

Confusing the Captain with the Cabin Boy: the Dangers Posed to Reform of Cyber Piracy Regulation by the Misrepresented Interface Between Society, Policy Makers & the Entertainment Industries

Michael Filby
Published 2007

Abstract

Although commentaries regarding intellectual property regulation frequently point out the complexitiesinherent in its subsistence and reform, the subject is still often discussed in overly simplistic terms of black andwhite. This paper examines the problems such a view poses, and questions whether a blanket of misunderstanding,or even misdirection, has been used to influence the progression of the regulation in the digital age.The primary hypothesis is that public perception of the law relating to cyber piracy is out of step with thecontemporary de facto legal position.The definition of cyber piracy is summarised, and the issues relating to confusion surrounding theboundaries or simply considering the myriad categories of piracy as a single topic are discussed. The current lawas per the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as amended is also outlined for the purpose of evaluating thehypothesis, and the border of cyber piracy in relation to the entertainment industries (concerning film, televisionand software) is set for the rationale of the analysis.Further exploration takes place through two case studies which concentrate on DVD piracy. The firstregards a marketing campaign which has been mounted by the entertainment industries purporting to, inter alia,raise consumer awareness of cyber piracy law in order to adjust public attitude to the practice toward the negative,and to lobby for tougher IP regulation. It is argued that the campaign falls foul of the dangers of failing to fullyidentify piracy, and fails to communicate an accurate interpretation of the legal position to the intended audience.The second case study examines an editorial concerning film piracy in an influential consumer moviemagazine. It is submitted that the summation of piracy law and representation of the regulation in general isheavily flawed, and it is questioned whether the bias behind this journalistic failure could be as a result of theinfluence of lobbies such as those found in the first case study.The findings of an exploratory study carried out in December 2006 are then presented. In addition touncovering opportunities for further research, the results indicate that the public are, in many situations, under theimpression that criminal sanctions regulating piracy are wider reaching than the current legislation presentlyprovides. It is submitted that the results of the study lend credibility to the notion that influences such as thoserecognised in the case studies have effectively misrepresented the law to consumers. The danger posed by thepossibility that policy makers may be as vulnerable as consumers and perhaps even the press to well-funded andwide-ranging lobbying is considered.It is concluded that the representation of intellectual property regulation with regards to piracy must becounterbalanced if a truly objective middle-ground can be maintained when considering approaches to reform.

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