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Who does digital piracy really hurt? Real people, study says

People and businesses who make a habit out of pirating digital content often reason that it’s a relatively victimless crime. But a new study has found that stealing intellectual property does have the potential to hurt people — a lot of people.

According to the study, companies that rely on copyrights, trademarks and patents to protect their ideas supply some 40 million jobs, or roughly 28 percent of the national workforce. Those that immediately come to mind are movie and recording studios, but also consider the property of pharmaceutical companies, medical laboratories and research hubs, not to mention the entrepreneurs and artists working from garages and basement studios across the U.S.

The first-of-its-kind study, released earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Commerce, points out that nearly 35 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product comes from 75 industries that are heavy on intellectual property and collectively employ about 27 million people. These industries also support roughly 13 million other jobs in related industries.

The report’s release comes at a time when awareness of intellectual property and piracy of content is at an all-time high. Most New Jersey residents are aware that it takes little more than Internet access and a touch of savvy to illegally download content without paying for it. But as countless people pirate this content, many more are affected by it. As U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue says, “Innovation can’t create jobs without strong IP protection.” Digital piracy has caused job losses across the board, particularly in the media and arts industries. In fact, New Jersey is considered one of the most IP-intensive states, along with California, Minnesota, Wisconsin and a handful of other East Coast states.

This is one reason the U.S. government hasn’t abandoned its fight against international digital piracy. Legislation such as the Stop Online Piracy Act may not have succeeded yet, but with so much of the American workforce at stake, lawmakers will be pressed to keep trying.

Source: Reuters, “U.S. says intellectual property supports 40 million jobs,” Doug Palmer, April 11, 2012

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