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Intellectual Property Theft and Organized Crime: The Case of Film Piracy

NCJ Number
Trends in Organized Crime Volume: 8 Issue: 4 Dated: Summer 2005 Pages: 15-39
Jeffrey Scott McIllwain
Date Published
25 pages
This paper examines the processes by which the crime of intellectual property theft is organized, with attention to film piracy.
The concept of intellectual property recognizes that individuals can be granted legal rights over intangible property that stems from one's intellect and is manifested in "novel and unique" ideas. Such rights are implemented in copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and patents, each of which is established and enforced under criminal and civil laws of individual nations. Intellectual property theft refers to the violation of any of these laws. Such theft can be as simple as copying a music CD one has purchased and giving the copy to a friend, thus depriving the creators of the CD of the sale of another CD. Intellectual property theft can also be as complex as the creation of a large transnational network of professional and semiprofessional criminals who work cooperatively to steal intellectual property and market it. This study focuses on the role of organized crime in intellectual property theft, especially film piracy, with attention to the U.S. Government's strategy for countering this criminal enterprise. This paper describes how film piracy occurs through an elaborate network that creates multiple copies from an illegally obtained master copy of the original film, followed by sale of the copied film through local and nationwide retail vendors. Film piracy violates racketeering statutes related to intellectual property theft. In the United States and across the globe, seizures, criminal indictments, civil actions, and public awareness in relation to film piracy have increased. Whether progress in countering this crime can be maintained in the face of technological advances in the hands of organized criminals, the evolution of industry economic structures, and consumer indifference remains to be seen. 4 tables, 21 notes, and 35 references


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