Software piracy: Lessons from US history

Just read an article that said that the US stand on intellectual property is hypocritical because its own prosperity was based on rampant piracy. The article provides a completely new perspective on piracy.

The article appeared in the Business World magazine  and is based on a
book named Trade Secrets: Intellectual Piracy And The Origins of American
Industrial Power
written by Doron S. Ben-Atar and an interview with the author.

It talks about how American leaders supported piracy of European technology for
centuries but once America became a world leader in technology, it switched to being an advocate of international laws regulating intellectual
property. It goes on to say that "Nearly every branch of manufacture in the US
was founded upon imported skill and machinery which was smuggled in because
there were strict prohibitions in Europe"

The author suggests that the way leaders of developing nations should handle
piracy issue today is by paying lip service to IP agreements and occasionally
raid a warehouse full of pirated CDs or prosecute a high-profile pirate. That’s
because US history teaches us that symbolic acts and talk of principles,
accompanied by lax enforcement, are a winning combination.

An interesting piracy fact is that the value of illegal software in the US is
6496 million dollars while that in China is 3822.5 million dollars. The figure
in India
is 367.4 million dollars. This is very strange considering that it’s generally
India and China that get all the blame for piracy. Even the UK has more than 4
times more illegal software than India. The UK figure is 1600.6 million dollars.

The author suggests that we have to learn to live with piracy and yet the way to the top is only through creating your own IP and not by copying. An
interesting read, with lessons for both the developing as well as the developed


  1. How to stop worrying
    and learn to live with
    piracy (requires free registration)
  2. Trade Secrets
  3. Global
    Piracy Study

  4. Trade Secrets Intellectual Piracy and the Origins of American Industrial Power


  1. Pirates of the IT world: The Curse of the Black Bazaar

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0 thoughts on “Software piracy: Lessons from US history

  • February 9, 2005 at 5:11 am

    [URL=]Dr.Abdul Kalam Calls for Open Source[/URL]

  • January 31, 2005 at 5:09 pm

    Unfortunately that is how the world works. Blame it on somebody least likely to resist.

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