Are You Breaking Federal Law Without Even Realizing It?

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Stolen property is everywhere.

It’s not on your front lawn or in your living room (well, it may be, but that’s a separate problem); it’s on your computer. The websites you visit every day may not seem suspicious, but given the statistics, it’s highly unlikely that you’ve managed to completely avoid exposing yourself to stolen intellectual property on the internet.

Almost a quarter of all Internet traffic consists of the consumption of content that infringes on intellectual property rights. Some of it is unintentional (e.g., teenagers posting fan art they’ve made of their favorite comic book characters on the internet) and some of it is completely intentional, malicious, and intended to make a profit off of someone else’s work.

To protect yourself — both from unwittingly supporting intellectual property theft and from committing theft yourself — you may need to do some research on intellectual property rights. To get you started, here’s a few interesting facts about copyright laws:

  1. Intellectual property is an enormous part of the United States’ economy. Intellectual property makes up over half of U.S. exports and is responsible for 40% of growth in the U.S. economy.
  2. Intellectual property theft is frequently committed by insiders in a business. About 21% of attacks on intellectual property are committed by former employees of the attacked business in question, and another 17% are committed by business partners.
  3. The federal government is cracking down on copyright infringement. The United States International Trade Commission is taking on more and more intellectual property cases, with the number of investigations rising over 80% in 2010.

Though copyright infringement can seem harmless due to its frequency on the internet, it’s important to stay informed, especially with the federal government’s significantly increased interest in the issue over the past few years. Who knows — you may already be guilty of theft and not even know it.

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