June 26, 2019

Copyright, or the right to copy

Annual sales loss of 55 billion euros, almost 500,000 jobs and €110 per EU citizen are the magnitudes of the latest report by the European Observatory on Intellectual Property Rights. At national level, these figures are resized by 6,700 million Euros, 50,000 jobs per year and 146 € per Spanish citizen per year.

Behind all these figures is the lucrative industry of counterfeiting and piracy on which, as noted, the international organized crime is already spreading its tentacles to the detriment of the other activities they used to carry out.

The impact of this scourge is centred on three major industrial sectors: clothing, cosmetics and smartphones, with percentages of total losses ranging from 10% to 15%; and closely followed by wines and spirits with 8%. But it is also noted with concern the increase that is experiencing the trafficking of counterfeit medicines, which, needless to say, are in turn a source of potential effects on public health.

The counterfeiting of trademarks, industrial designs or patents seems unstoppable. According to EUROSTAT data, in the five-year period 2013-2017 only 0.08% of all illegitimate goods were seized. All this is a consequence of the sum of three factors:

-The low social perception of the illicit act, and even its acceptance.

-The low prices of these products compared to the genuine ones.

-The ease of access and, I would add, the certain anonymity allowed by the Internet.

In my opinion, the most complex to deal with is the first; with a clear sociological aspect, which makes it very difficult to generate a degree of alarm and general reproach relevant enough to articulate a more efficient political and legal response. It is obvious that this factor is not unaware of the low average of sentences to deprivation of liberty or compensation for damages for the perpetrators of these crimes.

Let us not forget that for many years we have been witnessing, in media and social networks, the configuration of a state of published opinion in which intellectual property rights are presented as a subject of interests created by large corporations that for years have enjoyed wide margins of business and that globalization and the Internet have spoiled.

This simplification, based on a false myth of political correctness, of social justice against the power of corporations, forgets that 99% of the European businesses are an SME, the real engine of our economy, which ultimately also makes it the worst hit of the impacts exposed here.

All this negative impact does not only affect the economic dimension, but also the reputation of genuine brands, which are affected by a Negative Benchmarking through Internet channels, as a result of the links generated by illegal sites with pornographic advertising, online gambling or malicious software.

The counterbalance to all this is the citizens’ perception of the EU which mostly values the contribution of genuine products to innovation and wealth creation. The challenge therefore seems to be how to turn it into a driving force for change in all instances of this perverse inertia.


Article by Joan Salvà