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Joe Karaganis: Piracy Needs Better Policy

In a talk at the O’Reilly Media Tools of Change for Publishing conference in New York, Joe Karaganis of the American Assembly said that high prices for content and less accessibility lead to piracy.

Pointing out that lawyers are more expensive than cops, he spoke about how the strategy to combat piracy has often been focused on raids which are cheap and the occasional lawsuit which is done for show.

Urging the industry to create a better plan, he revealed research that illustrated the discrepancies between consumers filing sharing behavior and their perceptions about downloading with the laws around it. For instance, only 1-3% of people are hardcore pirates, but there is a lot of casual infringement. U.S. Internet users aged 18-29  will share files with friends, which could be 3-10 people or 300-1,000. These guys think that fines for such behavior should be about $100, even though the average fine is closer to $150,000. “People do not view file sharing as a serious offense,” he said.

He also said that while 64% of online users oppose web censorship, 61% said they would support Facebook and Dropbox going after people who infringe on intellectual property, suggesting that there are different attitudes depending on how policy is framed.

“It’s not enough to say that SOPA is bad,” Karaganis urged. “We need to create a positive agency around intellectual privacy policy.”

Pointing to the historic use of copy machines to copy textbooks at schools, Karaganis said that publishers should focus on making materials available in universities, because libraries aren’t competing with the commercial market, “they are competing with the piracy market,” he said. “Copy culture will grow exponentially.”

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