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EU Contracts RAND for Piracy & Counterfeiting Study

Much of the EU’s output is not the work of officials but rather of thousands of firms contracted per project. Tender reference MARKT/2010/03/D requested proposals for:

A study to assess the scope, scale and impact of counterfeiting and piracy in the internal market, through a defined methodology for collecting, analysing and comparing data.

This study will be the flagship publication of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy (subsequently renamed the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights (EOIIPR) and transferred to the OHIM). The tender process concluded in December and the winner was announced in January: the RAND Corporation (UK), and they will be paid half a million euros for their labours.

RAND has a certain fame as the birthplace of much of modern game theory under John Nash, and the doctrine of nuclear deterrence through mutually assured destruction (MAD). Launched an part of the cold-war security apparatus, RAND is now a massive organization heavily focussed on statistics and modeling for the devleopment of policy recommendations, often in ‘public safety’ fields.

Their selection warrants unease because although they would not be regarded as IP specialists, they do have form: in 2009, their US organization produced a lengthy report ‘Film Piracy, Organized Crime, and Terrorism’. This study was financed by the Motion Picture Association, and much of the documentation compiled was assembled by a consultant on ‘organized crime’ employed by the MPA. RAND did at least disclose the relationship with a vested interest.

Notably the report included little statistical analysis at all and relied upon industry sources to estimate economic losses. Much of the information relied upon was old (and sometimes just wrong) but more importantly they seemed so fixated on digging up connections to the world’s villains that they at no point analyse the economics of the sector itself. The falling price of DVD burners and the availability of films over the net mean that commercial piracy is continually being eroded by the challenge of free alternatives and local production. The Social Science Research Council’s recent publication Media Piracy in Emerging Economies provides a compelling refutation to the allegations of ‘organized crime’ and ‘terrorist control’ (see pages 37-40 in relation to the RAND report in particular).

A reading of the document leaves one in no doubt that it’s primary objective is to convince the public that ‘piracy and counterfeiting is not a victimless crime.’ As a result the frame through which the subject is analysed is one where these activities are basically just the work of gangs, which need to be deterred, requiring more enforcement resources and tougher sentences -. it’s sort of the square-jawed GI Joe school of IP policy, in a comic book universe of make-believe economics.

But maybe I’m being really unfair, and these guys are going to do an excellent job.


March 29, 2011 - Posted by | /, ECPO, enforcement, EOIIPR, european union, ipred


  1. Thanks for linking to Media Piracy in Emerging Economies! A small correction: SSRC (Social Science Research Council) was the organization responsible for the study, not the SSRN (Social Science Research Network).

    Comment by Pedro Mizukami | April 2, 2011 | Reply

    • Fixed – thanks for the correction, and congratulations again on the excellent work.

      Comment by nonrival | April 2, 2011 | Reply

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