Thursday 24 October 2013

Be global leader in fighting piracy

GOVERNMENT policies to block Internet sites ("Govt may block websites to fight piracy"; yesterday) will undoubtedly be controversial, especially for peer-to-peer sites where numerous unauthorised content is distributed.

Site blocking is not only about protecting the commercial interest of businesses in the intellectual property (IP) industry.

For the music industry, which has borne the brunt of online piracy, site blocking will not significantly boost its overall revenue.

In recent years, to minimise the cost barrier to authorised music services, a variety of access models were made available to consumers - from free access with advertising pop-ups to premium services without online advertising.

Unknown to the public, in a typical eat-all-you-can business model, a song that is streamed 1,000 times earns the songwriter less than 20 cents on average.

Beyond commercial reasons, our society - dependent on knowledge and technology - needs to teach the younger generation that "theft" is more than taking another person's property without his consent in the real world; it is equally applicable in the pervasive digital space.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore should be applauded for its promotional campaigns and educational activities, in collaboration with industry partners, to raise awareness of the importance of IP protection.

As a result, most young people are aware of what is illegal online content. Yet many still download them - probably in a moment of folly or out of convenience, spurred by the absence of any deterrent.

Most of us would likely turn away from such sites if the Internet service providers forewarn us that it is illegal and tell us not to proceed further.

Arguing that blocking sites is not a fool-proof measure and therefore should not be implemented is beside the point.

Singapore's fight against piracy has been ongoing since the advent of cassette and video tapes.

The Government has effectively cleaned up Sim Lim Square and other similar malls that were reputed to be selling copyright-infringing products in the past.

As we aspire to be an advanced knowledge-based economy, we should no longer play catch-up with other developed countries in IP protection and enforcement.

We should become a global leader in finding an effective framework to discourage the public from accessing copyright-infringing sites, through innovative policies and technological processes.

Edmund Lam (Dr)
Chief Executive Officer & Director
ST Forum, 23 Oct 2013

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