Let’s all welcome the UK IP Crime Group! – Yet another “group” surrounding industry and IP?

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to the UK IP Crime Group, for a brief description you can visit (what I believe) is their page here.

The UK IP crime group was founded in 2004 by the Intellectual Property Office due to the need to bring together Government, enforcement agencies and industry groups.

Source: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/pro-policy/pro-crime/pro-crime-group.htm

It has a .gov address and many of the people I talk to would advise against challenging government agencies/bodies (I believe because of an unwarranted fear of repercussions), suffice to say it doesn’t bother me at all and taking a closer look at the connections between industry and government is always worth doing, if it wasn’t then past “naughty” behaviour by others would never have been discovered.

Is it a I scratch your back world?  Who knows? But what is known is that there’s a growing trade (for want of a better word) in groups that live off “defending” others IP.  Its worth noting that many of these groups don’t actually create anything at all and are funded to serve the interests of the businesses who pay them.  Pay them I hasten to add in many cases on the back of huge profits.

So what is IP Crime? The title itself can mean absolutely anything.  But lets get one thing clear straight away, copyright infringement in its basic form is NOT theft in my view – Its copyright infringement (until the law changes to hopefully accommodate the views of many IP creators) If we wish to define theft and see why I believe it doesn’t relate, we need look no further than Sec(1) of Theft Act which clearly states:

To dishonestly appropriate property belonging to the other, with the intention to permanently deprive the other of it.

So lets put aside the “dishonestly appropriate” as we could debate that part all day and merely look at “appropriate property”.

When a young lad or lass is downloading the latest Hollywood rubbish (and I refuse to engage, watch or have any involvement with movies so I won’t even give a title off the top of my head) he/she is not appropriating anything, they are duplicating.  If I see you walking down the street with a fancy handbag and I decide to make an exact copy of your wonderful handbag, have I stolen anything? Have you been a victim of anything? I’d say no.  There’s no deprivation here either since the data transmitted is nothing more than a duplication.

The purpose of this article is not to get into the wider rights and wrongs of copyright law, more to give an example that its not a simple case of “theft” and that there are many facets to this entire subject.

So here we have a “new” group who whilst proudly announcing their first tweet on the 15th of May 2014, appear to have been around since 2004. Considering the matters they deal with and considering the digital revolution that has gripped the world, it doesn’t sound very “on the ball” to me.

I’m sure the usual people will turn up on the followers list to this account given time and this seems to be a trademark of these IP “crime” groups, be them governmental or entirely private.  But surprisingly, I received a response to some questions on Twitter.

One of the things I wanted to confirm was if this “new” or not so new group was paid for by tax-payer.  They’ve not corrected me when I mentioned them being a government group, so at present time I can assume that they are and the link I found is actually them. (Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong)

The group is not funded by the tax payer – members pay their own costs.

So that’s good isn’t it? Well no. But we will come onto that later.   In the meantime we can be assured that the group is funded by the members.

When attempting to see how yet another “IP Crime” group fits into this ecosystem, I failed to notice that they had sent another tweet:

@_Goblin This group is all about bringing those together who have an interest in tackling IP crime. The IPO provides the secreteriat.

As well as seemingly having a problem spelling the word “secretariat” it’s seems there’s a problem here with their response.  If the IPO provides the secretariat (notice spelt with an A and not an E) then is it not by proxy funded by the tax-payer? Or is the tax-payer not funding the IPO?

And what exactly does this group do? Does it provide a forum for members? If so, why does it require another focus group.  Let me list some of the options open to those IP interested:

http://www.fact-uk.org.uk/partners/ – This is FACT’s partners list, and this is one list.  You also have trading standards and all their associated bodies and who know’s how many, both public and private trying to have a stake in IP work.

The purpose of this article asks “What is it that the UK IP Crime Group does above what’s already there?” and I made a comment which likened all these groups to one of those dolls that when you open them up contain another doll inside.  What a tangled web we weave.

In the meantime I suppose “IP Crime” will mean whatever the industry wants it to mean and the question is, how far does the governments involvement stretch to securing the happiness (for want of a better word) of large corporations?

As one of many creators of IP who champion FOSS and Creative Commons, it seems the only IP creation government takes an interest in is that of large corporations.  I recently highlighted here the allegation made by an individual that his IP had been used without permission by a government body.  He’s had little success in a resolution. You can see his Twitter account here.

So this article has really gone nowhere.  It’s presented more questions than it has answers.  I would like the UK IP Crime group to answer them, however I’m sure they have many other matters to attend to and it would be slightly unreasonable for them to step up and answer something every time someone from Twitterverse asks them.  But that doesn’t stop you, the tax-payer, you the consumer of these Hollywood movies et al to ask yourself the questions about the validity of these groups and just how far entrenched in this is the government?

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