Copyright covers the expression of ideas. For the purposes of copyright, piracy is the unauthorized reproduction for commercial purposes of works protected by copyright or similar rights, together with all subsequent commercial dealings in such reproductions.
There are numerous problems connected with copyright protection. Problems in high technology are due to (a) the development of techniques for the dissemination of creative works (reprography, computers, satellites, television by cable, video-cassettes, etc.), (b) the ease with which communications technology can be imitated and (c) the globalization of the world economy, which has intensified both the incentives and harm of such violations.
Problems related to copyright protection in the area of logos, industrial designs and inventions include approximations of these items, for example, a single letter may be changed in a brand name.
Abuse of intellectual property rights has led to a worldwide business estimated to be worth as much as $60 billion a year. In the European Community the estimated loss from phonogram piracy alone in 1984 was about $27 million.
Illicit versions of British textbooks are available through Southeast Asia. British publishers claim that in Taiwan alone they are losing £25 million a year because locally pirated editions are available at a fraction of their UK price. Losses in Singapore are estimated at £16 million a year, in Korea £10 million a year, in Nigeria £6 million a year, in Indonesia £5 million a year and in Pakistan and Malaysia £4 million a year each.
Espionage in high technology for weapons systems and spacecraft has saved the former Soviet Union more than $50 billion in research costs, according to American government sources.
Pirate editions were common in the USA during the 19th and early 20th centuries (when the USA could be considered a net importer of intellectual property). British artists then, from Gilbert and Sullivan to J.R.R. Tolkien, were acutely aware of such trespasses. Today, however, Americans look at such lax-copyright countries such as China as disapprovingly as Britain looked westward 100 years ago.
While it is important to protect the legitimate interests of copyright proprietors, the control that they exercise over the use of protected works must not be allowed to become an obstacle to the development and improvement of documentation and education systems. It is therefore essential to formulate strategies which make it possible to promote the circulation of such materials.