Asia.Com: Asia Encounters the Internet

By K. C. Ho; Randolph Kluver et al. | Go to book overview
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6

Piracy, open source, and international intellectual property law

Debora Halbert

As Asia faces the global economy of the future, it is necessary to take stock of the once arcane issue of intellectual property. The ability to manufacture cheaply computer software, music, movies, and textbooks that are of the same quality as the original has resulted in a threat posed by intellectual property consumers to intellectual property owners (Negroponte, 1995). While the philosophically oriented may see the digital age as an opportunity to rethink authorship, creativity, and private property, others view it as an era of massive theft (Grabosky et al., 2001). When the ease of reproduction is combined with the networked world of the Internet, the laws of copyright created in the eighteenth century seem ready to topple. In response, expansive new laws are passed in an effort to maintain control of information even as that control becomes impossible.

Industries that rely upon intellectual property law perceive piracy as a threat and the Internet as a tool for wrongdoing rather than as a more efficient mode of communication. Copyright violations around the globe have led to a huge multi-pronged anti-piracy effort with intellectual property interests successfully lobbying governments to change laws to enhance protection, and to shut down troublesome Internet sites. These industries have developed educational campaigns to define piracy as a moral issue and they have established hotlines for people to report piracy by employers or neighbors (Gutterman and Anderson, 1997).

The development of the Internet, along with other information and communication technologies in Asia, has tremendous significance for several reasons. First, as "information" has become the key ingredient to participation in the information society, governments have invested heavily in these technologies in order to bring about economic development and participate more fully in the new global economy (see Ho, Kluver, and Yang, Chapter 1, this volume). Second, the availability of information on the Internet means that unlike traditional property, information is not exclusive and can exist in multiple forms and locations, without diminishing the ability of the original owner to use it. Finally, the Internet enables rapid and inexpensive duplication of information, allowing an enlarged sphere of participation in economic, political, and cultural life. However,

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