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Protection and prevention efforts


Proposed solutions to cyber-enabled intellectual property crime include criminal justice efforts, technical solutions to limit unauthorized access to intellectual property, and education campaigns. Criminal justice prevention efforts include the monitoring of online sites that share copyrighted works; undercover investigations targeting those engaging in various forms of cyber-enabled intellectual property crime (e.g., Operation Fastlink, which involved multiple US agencies conducting several undercover operations simultaneously to identify and ultimately arrest individuals who were responsible for the online illegal distribution of copyrighted works, such as games, software, music, movies; Department of Justice, 2004); the takedown of sites known to distribute intellectual property (e.g., Megaupload); and the prosecutions of those engaging in cyber-enabled intellectual property crime (e.g., both individuals and the administrators of online platforms that host copyrighted works). What is more, companies, such as Canada Goose and Chanel, which have experienced cyber-enabled intellectual property crime have sued online marketplaces for trademark infringement for selling counterfeit versions of their products (WIPR, 2018; TBO, 2018).

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Websites housing stolen intellectual property have been publicly identified in different countries (e.g., the United Kingdom and Malaysia) and placed on the Infringing Website List (IWL) (Muhamading, 2017). The IWL, which is part of the Operation Creative programme of the UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), identifies piracy websites and seeks to remove these websites' access to advertising revenue and/or drastically reduce it by informing advertising associations and companies that their advertisements are being hosted on illegal sites and educating these associations and companies on how this can hurt their brand (City of London Police, 2016).

Criminal penalties are also promoted as a way to send the message that violations of intellectual property are serious and are punished under existing laws. The penalties for cyber-enabled intellectual property crime are meted for deterrence purposes. For deterrence to work, penalties must be: severe (i.e., the penalty should outweigh the benefits of the crime); certain (i.e., a person who commits the crime should be punished for the crime); and swift (i.e., a person is punished shortly after committing the crime) (Maras, 2016). Criminal penalties for intellectual property are geared towards specific deterrence (i.e., the person punished ceases further illicit acts if the punishment received outweighs the benefits of committing the crime) and general deterrence (i.e., sends the message to others that similar behaviour will receive similar severe punishment). The current nature of the Internet, however, severely limits the practicability of deterrence as the volume and frequency of piracy far outpaces any reactionary measures (Dolliver and Love, 2015).

Beyond measures targeting perpetrators of cyber-enabled intellectual property crime, governments have implemented measures to socially censure countries that do not protect intellectual property as required by international, regional, and national laws. For instance, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, which monitors and reports on US intellectual property protection worldwide, provides an annual report that "call[s] out foreign countries and expose[s] the laws, policies, and practices that fail to provide adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement for U.S. inventors, creators, brands, manufacturers, and service providers…[, and] identifies foreign trading partners where IP protection and enforcement has deteriorated or remained at inadequate levels and where U.S. persons who rely on IP protection have difficulty with fair and equitable market access" (United States Trade Representative, 2018, p. 5).

Technological solutions have also been implemented to combat intellectual property theft, such as the encrypted transfer of intellectual property and the use of special codes and/or passwords to enable access to intellectual property. One such technological solution is digital watermarking (i.e., embedded identification code that includes information about the copyright) technology (Chaudhry et al., 2011). Blockchain (i.e., trustworthy and authentic transactions secured through cryptography) has also been proposed as a technological solution to intellectual property crime, particularly its use as a secure IP registry (Clark, 2018).

Cybersecurity measures have also been implemented to protect data and the systems and data where this content is stored and through which it traverses. Technical measures have further been implemented to prevent the unauthorized access to and use of intellectual property. Examples of these types of measures are blocking and filtering techniques (discussed in Cybercrime Module 3 on Legal Frameworks and Human Rights).


Arbitrary blocking or filtering of content is prohibited under international human rights law (see Cybercrime Module 3 on Legal Frameworks and Human Rights for further information).

With respect to education campaigns, WIPO conducts various annual activities to raise countries, organizations, businesses, and consumers' awareness on intellectual property protection and the impact of intellectual property theft. The goals of this and other education campaigns are to raise awareness on intellectual property theft and the need to protect intellectual property and build respect for intellectual property by changing existing beliefs and attitudes towards intellectual property. These initiatives focus on children and adults. For example, one WIPO educational campaign for children, Respect for Intellectual Property, covers information to raise awareness on intellectual property and includes resources and interactive exercises and media for children, as well as teachers who are interested in the subject, want to or currently teach the subject, or want to learn more about the topic. WIPO also provides links to animated videos that explain copyrights, trademarks, and patents to children. National education campaigns on intellectual property have also been implemented. For example, the International Trade Association (INTA) and the Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) launched an intellectual property rights education campaign at schools in India in 2017, which included an interactive presentation and games (INTA, 2017).Moreover, the UK Intellectual Property Office provides open access information on educational resources, lessons, media, and interactive exercises to spread awareness about intellectual property, its importance, and rights to students at various levels of their education (see, for example, Cracking Ideas).

Education campaigns relating to copyrighted works have additionally focused on the adverse impact of copyright infringement on the economy and jobs in the film, book, music and software industry. Education campaigns relating to trademarks have focused on the harm caused by counterfeit products. A case in point is the UNODC "Counterfeit: Don't Buy Into Organized Crime" campaign, which was created to raise consumer awareness on trademark counterfeiting and its adverse personal, social, and environmental impact (UNODC, 2014b). 

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