Protecting intellectual property theft
Of all the major challenges faced by global trade and governance, safeguarding intellectual property rights remains the biggest. For instance, an estimated potential advantage by software pirates is worth billions of dollars in yearly revenues from illegal copies. Microsoft claims that intellectual property theft only in China costs it about $25 billion.
Moreover, in the wake of Sony’s recent largest online data breach, the company had to shut down some internet services in Canada, Thailand and Indonesia after detecting unauthorized intrusions.
Intruders stole the names and e-mail addresses of about 2,000 customers at Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB’s Canadian website, while a site in Thailand may have been modified to help send fraudulent e-mails. Sony Corp. also suspended a site in Indonesia because of a suspected attack and found Web codes for the Japanese music unit stolen. Sony failed to contain the situation as its PlayStation Network was crippled, causing the company a loss of around $171 million.
The issue of intellectual property theft becomes critical for the corporate leaders of developed economies who need to redouble their efforts at going after the rapidly growing opportunities in emerging markets of Asia.
Be it Boston, Beijing or Bangalore, counterfeiters, pirates and IP scofflaws haunt most of the multinational businesses. Movement of people and exchange of knowledge across organizations is a defining feature of every vibrant economic system. Therefore, it is being regarded as inevitable to avoid involuntary IP leakage. Still, governments and corporations are trying to figure out how to slow down involuntary leakage so that accumulating new IPs at a faster pace than the loss becomes possible. Attempts are being made to focus on three goals in this regard: curbing the motivation for IP theft, reducing others’ ability to steal IPs and minimizing residual damage from the IP leakage that does occur.
The e-G8 Summit, hosted by France, delivered a similar commitment from the world’s leading economies on the protection of intellectual property rights. The summit appeared to be one of the strongest stances taken against the problem of IP theft.
Under the overarching theme of ‘Accelerating Growth,’ the summit carried three big themes for the sessions and workshops: the internet business in general and disruptive technologies in particular, the internet and human rights (given what is going on in the Middle East), and internet and privacy.
Reportedly, French President Sarkozy came up with the summit’s agenda that social networks are acting as the cultural nervous systems of the new century civilization. The problem is they are being created and governed by commercial interests, not by their constituents. Sarkozy was of the view that if commercial social networks truly become the fabric of the new societies, they will become privatized and controlled by commercial interests and not by elected governments. According to him, the new global resource of the internet needs to be protected and regulated to be of greater benefit.
However, industry representatives encountered these statements with strikingly opposing views over internet regulation. For instance, Mark Zuckerberg, the entrepreneur and creator of the social network Facebook, with nearly 500 million users around the world, said “People tell me on the one hand ‘it is great you played such a big role in the Arab spring, but it is also kind of scary because you enable all this sharing and collect information on people’,” adding further, “But it’s hard to have one without the other .... You cannot isolate some things you like about the Internet and control other things that you do not like.”
Similarly, Google Inc. Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt warned that government intervention could slow the internet’s development, “Technology will move faster than governments, so do not legislate before you understand the consequences.”
Thus, the outcome highlighted the difficulty of finding a way to regulate the Internet that is acceptable to both governments and industry. However, the G8 appeared to handle the intellectual property rights issue head on, as the declarations passed by the follow-up summit ensure effective action against violations of intellectual property rights in the digital arena. Declarations also include actions that address present and future infringements. They also highlight the encouragement and protection of innovation and the need to have national laws and frameworks for improved law enforcement.
As the issue of intellectual property rights is increasingly emerging in the political and economic agenda of global forums, the increasing exchange of dialogue and collaborations will produce workable solutions for protecting corporations of the digital era