Case Study: It’s a Knock-Off World
- Collectivism and individualism, democracy and totalitarianism, rule of law and rule of man: What do these concepts say about the intellectual property rights of software and the legitimacy of its protection?
I would like to answer this question by first describing the terms that are mentioned in the questions one by one and then relate them to intellectual and property rights. The following description of the terms is extracted from the definitions mentioned by Daniels & Radebaugh (2015).
Collectivism: collectivism refers to the collective status of the society where rights and roles of the community is considered as primary. The society considered the betterment of the whole more important as compared to individuals in that society.
Individualism: Individualism is the primary status of the individuals in a society. Individual rights take precedence over individual rights in individualistic societies.
Democracy: In a democratic society there is political freedom. The population of that society chose their own representatives. Each vote has the same value.
Totalitarianism: This is a dictatorial system where there is no freedom of expressions. A single dictator make most of the decisions. Individual interest are subordinated by the collective interests.
Rule of Law: Rule of law is a function of a democratic society. Each person is considered as equal and the same law applies to each person even if it is the head of the state.
Rule of Man: Rule of man is where there is a single person or group such as the communist party in china (Tsou, 1969).
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) of Software
IPR of software refers to the legal protection of software from being used unauthorized. It is important for the economic growth of any country to protect copyrights and IPR (Chang, 2001). Whenever a society moves towards individualism, there is more and more rule of law and intellectual property rights of all kinds including software are respected. Such societies are more democratic and each individual is treated as equal with an equal opportunity to innovate and progress. In contrast, Totalitarian societies are controlled by individuals or specific groups who argue that the collective progress of the society is more important than the individual right. In such societies there is more focus on rule of man and hence IPR may not enjoy legal cover.
- What is the relationship among governments, institutions, organizations, and companies in developing legal means to fight software piracy?
There is a deep relationship between governments, institutions, organizations and companies in developing legal means to fight software piracy. Governments are responsible to introduce and order the implementation of laws that would provide a legal cover to the operations of any organization including the software industry. Then there are institutions like the judiciary and police who are making it sure that the laws setup by the government are followed in letter and spirit. Organizations like Business Software Alliance (BSA) try to advocate the importance of IPR of software (Husted, 2000). These kinds of organizations educate the general public about piracy issues and try to get in touch with the governmental authorities and politicians to provide software IPR a legal cover. Companies are the ones that are actually developing the software. They are the most affected party in my opinion. They make all the investment on developing software and at the end these software may be pirated and illegally used. These companies can assist the government, the organizations and institutions to devise strategies to fight software piracy.
- Can the software industry control software piracy without government help? Why would the software industry dislike greater government regulation? How do you think customers in wealthier countries versus those in poorer countries justify software piracy?
I do not think so that software industry can alone control software piracy without any help from government. The reason is that government has all the power to punish the culprits who commit any crime including piracy. Companies can try their best to secure their software from being pirated but the software pirates will always find their way around. This is where the government acts and punished them for piracy crimes.
Research has indicated that formal control can compromise the free flow of scientific innovation (Murray & Stern, 2007). Whenever there is a greater governmental control, there would be checks that could prove to be a hinder in the progress of scientific knowledge including the development of innovative software.
Customers in wealthier countries think that the software companies are already making enough money and using a pirated software may not damage their profitability. In poorer countries, software theft may not even be considered as a theft.
- Can you envision a scenario where companies and consumers reach a relationship that eliminates the profitability of piracy—whether it is for software, music, movies and other digital products?
In my opinion this question can be answered in both yes and no. It can be answered in yes if we take a national perspective. Companies and customers can easily reach out to one another and develop consensus on software prices, which could eliminate the profitability of piracy.
The same Question can be answered with a no answer when we look at the issue from an international perspective. If we consider that a company or an alliance of companies want to create a consensus with the global customers to reach an agreement where the profitability of piracy can be eliminated, I would say it is very difficult. There are cross border laws involved. The issue would become more political than economic.