Late last week, spokespersons the City of London police force announced the creation of a special crime unit, one that will focus on intellectual property abuse, otherwise known as illegal file sharing. The new branch, called the Intellectual Property Crime Unit, will focus primarily on eliminating illegal peer-2-peer activities within the United Kingdom. The details of the new task force were discussed on the official site for UK’s Intellectual Property Office:
“The establishment of a new online intellectual property crime unit is evidence of the government and City of London Police’s commitment to confront this threat,” [Commissioner of the City of London Police, Adrian] Leppard said.
“Together we are creating an operationally independent police unit that will co-ordinate the national and international response from law enforcement and public and private sector partners so we can effectively target those who continue to illegally profiteer on the back of others endeavours.” Leppard said the new unit would not only safeguard jobs, but would also ensure citizens’ “computer safety” by ensuring they were not exposed to unauthorized copyrighted content.
It should be noted that the United Kingdom does not rank incredibly high when it comes to illegal downloads. Even if you look at multiple sources, the UK does not stand out as a hotbed for illegal file sharing. So why is the UK’s law enforcement agencies making such a big deal about it? Perhaps this is a matter of perception, as indicated by the press release:
Around seven million people a month visit sites offering illegal content in the UK. Globally, it is projected that digitally pirated music, films and software will account for losses of around $80bn – this is expected to rise to $240bn by 2015.
I’m not exactly sure where these figures come from, because they don’t really match the information found in other resources. Another question is, how much influence does a company like EMI have when it comes to greasing the wheels of such decisions? Considering EMI’s disposition towards protecting their assets–see the “I Have A Dream” mess, for example–it stands to reason the company would fully support such a move by the UK government.
Whatever the case, the new IP crime unit will receive 2.5 million GBP in funding; and it is being supplied by the aforementioned Intellectual Property Office.