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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

Conceptualising Copyright Infringement Online as Organised Crime: Theoretical, Legal and Empirical Challenges

Benjamin Farrand
University of Newcastle
Benjamin Farrand
University of Newcastle

In recent years, both policymaking institutions and trade/industry organisations have referred to the links between online copyright infringement (or piracy, as it may colloquially be known) and organised crime activities. Influential organisations such as RAND have referred to the link as proven, and trade body the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry have also discussed organised crime related copyright infringement being facilitated by the possibilities arising from the Internet as a means of distribution. However, this conceptualisation is increasingly open to challenge, as an increasing body of research seeks to analyse the origins and validity of this link. The purpose of this paper is to further address this link from theoretical, legal and empirical perspectives, adopting an interdisciplinary approach to the issue of online copyright infringement. Questioning the context in which the term 'organised crime' is used as applied to online piracy, this paper will discuss this use in light of the EU's Framework Decision on organised crime, as well as in light of the difficulty in establishing a sound empirical basis for the making of these claims. Finally, this paper will demonstrate how the increasing uncertainty of this link may be resulting in a change of policy at the European Union level concerning enforcement methods for online copyright infringement.
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