Pirates of Globalization: An overview of Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property theft is one of the major concerns for global business leaders.  In an era of globalization and fast dissemination of information, fraudulent manufacturers employ sophisticated means of acquiring patented information and exploit it for commercial gain.  As Catherine Holahan notes in her article for Business Week, pirated goods now account for nearly 7 percent of all commercial activity across the world.  Developing economies such as India, China, Brazil and Russia are proving to be hotbeds for this trend as Intellectual Property laws are either vague or poorly developed here.  Moreover, in the era of the Internet, online commercial transactions across borders are especially difficult to bring under the purview of cyber law, as there is no consensus between different participant nations.  It is due to this reason that Digital Rights Management (DRM) has been conceived and implemented. (Holahan, 2008) The rest of this essay will look into some of the mechanisms for protecting Inellectual Property rights, especially that of DRM.

In this era of globalization, intellectual property rights face their greatest threat through the open and free transmission of information in the cyber world. The case for enterprise DRM is synonymous with the case for a well-articulated, role-based technology and data protection policy. DRM simply moves the point of data security from that of the network hardware or the computer software down to the individual document, or even right down to document-based operations (Compton, 2005). Simon Halberstam, a noted expert on the subject gives an interesting insight:

“Legal protections for digital IP theft have been generally strengthened in the UK and in major jurisdictions such as the EU and US, but a lack of synchronization between them and dubious enforceability in many other markets, keeps companies looking for more proactive protections. It’s difficult to impose UK laws on someone operating in Eastern Europe or China. In other words, if you want people to respect your rights, you need technological means of achieving it” (Compton, 2005).

As the current enforcement environment is full of loop holes, it becomes easy to pirate intellectual property. But the flaws inherent in the system, which is largely as a result of Information Technology industry’s lack of foresight and rigorous testing of the new business model, has been drawing concerns from commentators right from its inception.  Since most business transactions take place with the aid of the Internet in the globalized era, the initiation of DRM is of special importance. The Digital Rights Management (DRM) initiative is an industry wide agreement on a robust and fool-proof data security technology.  The necessity for such a sophisticated technology is the rapid growth in online commerce, especially the businesses related to entertainment.  This includes downloadable movies, music albums, electronic books, etc.  A very successful application of DRM technology is seen in Apple’s iTunes service.  Music offered for purchase is encrypted and the unlocking the encryption is only possible by a “compatible player with the correct password” (O’Brien, 2004).  For example, when a new song is bought, the buyer is required to send the unique code of his music player to the iTunes technical department.  After this, the iTunes manufacturing unit encrypts the music file based on the customer’s unique music player code.  This way, the file could not be opened by any other player than that of the customer’s (O’Brien, 2004).

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