This week Paul Rutherford, chief marketing officer at Clearswift, takes a look at internet piracy, and the measures companies can take to protect themselves against the threat of cyber-pirates.
Piracy on the high seas has been a flourishing business for many centuries; indeed it proved to be the foundation of the British Empire.
Some of the obvious reasons for its success and continuance are the oceans' vastness and the lack of any national, international or maritime police force capable of regularly preventing piracy or apprehending the pirates.
The internet is similarly vast, and policing it is proving equally difficult. The International Intellectual Property Alliance has estimated that the piracy of US music, films, books and other intellectual content across 56 countries cost US companies some $9.2bn (£5.8bn) in 2002.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a London-based group representing 1,500 record companies worldwide, recently estimated that 95 per cent of music sales in China are attributable to piracy.
Research recently conducted by IDC on behalf of the Business Software Alliance (BSA) claimed that reducing the level of pirated software in the UK from 25 per cent to 15 per cent would create another 40,000 jobs in the IT sector and generate £2.5bn for the government in tax revenues.
Internet piracy is also having a detrimental effect on corporate networks as peer-to-peer pirated content traffic continues to overwhelm them.
The most voracious consumers of bandwidth are music and video. Then there's the productivity issue: it's not ideal for employees to be organising their music collection or watching movie clips.
Furthermore, there's the issue of an organisation's legal liabilities as employees use corporate networks for illegal downloads of content. In April 2002, an Arizona company agreed a $1m settlement with the recording industry as compensation for employees having accessed and distributed thousands of songs using company equipment.
Similarly, the BSA had 75 settlements with UK companies ranging from £19,000 to over £56,000 in 2002.
In addition to the cost of litigation there is the resultant damage to reputation and brand, critical in an age where even mid-sized businesses are expected to ensure good corporate governance.
Organisations need to protect themselves against employees who download illegal copies of songs, images, software and so on. They must also make the protection of their intellectual property a similarly high priority. To achieve both, they will look towards technology.
Organisations must also urge governments to frame and administer legislation to deter and punish the pirates. Industry bodies also have a big role to play in educating organisations and acting as a forum for co-operation in dealing with piracy.
In addition to educating employees and implementing a comprehensive e-policy, organisations must enforce the policy to ensure that staff are not using the network inappropriately and that there are no security breaches.
Preventing piracy is much more than merely blocking access to certain websites. Email and web content security enable organisations to analyse the traffic moving into, out of and around the company network via email and the internet.
Traffic can be dismantled into raw data, and filtered against company-defined policy. It performs lexical scanning for keywords, which indicate confidentiality breaches or offensive language. It can also quarantine defined file types, block email based on file types and add legal disclaimers where appropriate.
In order to ensure that you are protected from the threat of piracy, we would advise the following:
- Establish policies and procedures which prevent employees from both stealing and leaking content, whether ignorantly or maliciously.
- Install software that blocks access to undesirable websites and filters inappropriate file types and file downloads.
- Install email filtering software to prevent content entering or leaving the organisation.
- Policies on content downloads must be explained to employees and they must be made aware of their own personal liabilities and those of their employer.
- It is prudent to put a limit on the amount of storage for content that any one employee can have on their desktop at any one time.
- Confidential and intellectual property content must be identified and policies and technology (if and when available) put in place to prevent the content leaving the organisation.
- Organisations must constantly audit whether their policies and technologies are effective in preventing content piracy.
Regulation may eventually help organisations, and technology is constantly evolving to assist in preventing and detecting content piracy.
However, the pirates are often technologically savvy themselves and are quick to combat the hurdles put in their way by new technology.
The internet content piracy landscape is a dynamic one and organisations must employ eternal vigilance to protect their intellectual property and ensure that they are not illegally harbouring other organisations' intellectual property.
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