U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Policing Intellectual Property Piracy: A Study in Corporate Control of Crime

NCJ Number
Journal of Crime &Justice Volume: 31 Issue: 2 Dated: 2008 Pages: 27-64
David F. Luckenbill; Kirk Miller
Date Published
38 pages
This case study of private policing examines how the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) polices a common form of piracy, i.e., the retail distribution of unauthorized videocassettes.
In the typical case, an agent of the MPAA learns that a particular retailer is acquiring and renting/selling unauthorized videocassettes. An investigation is conducted, and if it produces evidence of wrongdoing, the agent may take any of three courses of action that aim to disrupt the operation, seize the tapes, and prevent future offenses. These three options involve criminal, civil, and voluntary forfeiture. The course chosen by the agent typically depends on the intent of the offender, the willingness and capacity of officials to take action, and the cost-effectiveness and feasibility of legal processing. This example of private policing is similar to public policing in depending on a complaint by a victim or information provided by a third party in triggering an investigation. This example of private policing is also similar to public policing in the practice of conducting an investigation in order to collect evidence of wrongdoing. This analysis notes six differences between this example of private policing and public policing. First, they differ in the interests served. Second, they differ in the degree to which people are encouraged to report wrongdoing. Third, they differ in the likelihood that cases are subject to investigation. Fourth, they differ in the options for handling cases. Fifth, they differ in the likelihood that legal action will be taken in sound cases. Sixth, they differ in the likelihood that legal action will be sustained under the various motivations and costs related to pursuing cases. Data for this study came from interviews conducted between 1995 and 2000. Most respondents worked for the MPAA, either in the main security office or as field agents. 3 notes and 57 references