CONGRESS AND CONSUMERS; FIGHTING PIRACY TOGETHER
December 1, 2005
This past Friday marked the official start of the Christmas shopping season. While this time of year brings many positive things - the joy of buying gifts for family and friends, an economic boost for our nation's businesses - it also brings with it a boon for those that copy and sell fake merchandise such as software and CDs.
It is tempting to think of crimes involving piracy, or intellectual property (IP) theft, as victimless, but this is simply untrue. Piracy denies individuals who have invested in the creation and production of these goods a return on their investment thus reducing the incentive to invest in innovative products and new creative works. The end result is the loss of American jobs. In fact, IP theft costs U.S. companies between $200-$250 billion a year in revenue and approximately 750,000 jobs.
Piracy doesn't only impact product creators and retail store owners who lose money. It ultimately harms consumers as well. In the face of lost revenue companies must pull resources from the development of new technology and devote it to protecting their goods, resulting in a product that may not be as advanced or affordable as it could have been otherwise. In addition, counterfeit goods such as pharmaceuticals, automobile parts, airplane parts, baby formulas, and children's toys can pose serious risks of bodily harm and even death.
Also concerning is the growing evidence of the link between the sale of counterfeit consumer goods, in many cases pirated movies and music, and terrorist financing. A report by Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, states that counterfeit goods and intellectual property piracy are "becoming the preferred method of funding for a number of terrorist groups". Evidence indicates that a diverse group of terrorist entities, including Al Qaeda and Hezbollah derive income from piracy, ultimately using the money to fund everything from their lifestyles to their terrorist operations.
Consumers have a part to play in stopping intellectual property theft by steering clear of pirated items, whether online or on the street. Shoppers who purchase items that are on the market illegally could not only be unknowingly supporting terrorist organizations, but also will likely not receive the bargain they think they are getting. Pirated products don't come with guarantees, and the vendor who sells you a fake won't be around to help when it doesn't work.
Because of these threats to our economy and national security I co-founded the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus two years ago. Through my Co-Chairmanship of the Caucus, I will work to ensure that writers, musicians, inventors and other creators are protected against the theft of their work, and that consumers around the world are not unknowingly funding those who wish to do us harm.