Understanding the Consequences of Intellectual Property Theft

Is illegally downloading a song or purchasing a counterfeit handbag the same thing as robbing someone on the street?  According to research conducted by the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), 2 out of 3 adult Americans agree that piracy and counterfeit products are a problem, but the public does not believe anyone is getting hurt by making such purchases.

Intellectual property theft is a growing crime in America. Learn more about this growing threat and help raise awareness about the consequences of purchasing counterfeit and ‘pirated’ products.

NCPC recently gave me the opportunity to conduct an interview with their director of communications and marketing, Michelle Boykins. As a lead spokesperson, Michelle Boykins works to encourage support of NCPC’s important crime prevention messages and has been featured in media sources such as Consumer Reports, Woman’s Day and Newsday. Ms. Boykins directs all operational aspects for public service campaigns symbolized by McGruff the Crime Dog®, his nephew Scruff®, and the “Take A Bite Out Of Crime®” slogan.

1.      How do you define intellectual property theft to teens and young adults?

Teens and young adults are becoming increasingly more knowledgeable about the term intellectual property. Since teens are also more creative, especially online, we like to use an analogy with them.  We ask them to imagine that they are asked to create a new product with the expectation to get paid but at the end of the process someone else takes that work, makes millions, and attributes nothing to them.  Intellectual property theft is anyone who obtains, sells, copies, or distributes copyrighted material without permission of the originator.

2.      Do parents view the purchase of counterfeit and pirated merchandise differently than teens?

Yes, parents and teens hold different views on the purchase of counterfeit and pirated products.  More than 3 in 4 adults believe illegal downloading is like robbery or shoplifting from a store.  Adults are also more likely to understand how their actions have a larger effect on the global economy.

3.      What trends are you seeing in piracy and counterfeit purchases? (any stats you can share)

Though 2 out of 3 adult Americans agree that piracy and counterfeit products are a problem, sixty-eight percent (68%) still willingly make these purchases to ‘save money.’  NCPC developed its campaign because we were heartened to find that sixty-three percent (63 percent) of adults and 54 percent of teens believe they need more education about the topic.

4.      Recently there’s been a lot of debate over the SOPA and PIPA bills, with concerns it could lead to censorship. Do you think it can help stop piracy?

Something must be done to stop the growth of intellectual property theft.  I’m glad to see so much discourse on both sides of this issue.  We believe that we are going to be most effective if we can look at this issue from all sides – legislation, demand reduction through awareness, and enforcement.

5.      What are other ways we can address the problem of online piracy?

It all starts with each of us.  This is a complex issue that is not just a National problem but a global one.  We need to public to stop purchasing illegal products and downloading illegal content; to help law enforcement find those responsible and disrupt the sale of counterfeit products, and to prosecute the individuals, gangs, and international criminal organizations that profit from these activities.  We also need the help of industry leaders from all sectors to stop those who download and share illegal content for monetary gain.

Don’t get burned by intellectual property theft.  Counterfeits hurt.  You have the power to stop them. Check out NCPC’s latest campaign at www.ncpc.org/getreal


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