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Digital Piracy: Fighting Fire with Fire

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The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

Sep 30, 2014
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Tunay Tunca

Digital piracy has persisted in the past decade. In the music world, the Recording Industry Association of America claims illegal downloads annually drain $12.5 billion and 70,000 jobs from the U.S. economy.

Torrent technology has disrupted illegal-download tracking and prompted the music association to join the Motion Picture Association of America in the controversial Copyright Alert System that monitors consumers and warns them concerning online file sharing.

Tunay Tunca, a Smith professor of management science and operations management, says the associations have piracy woven into their industries and should embrace the proverb, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Legal publishers and individual downloaders have a common enemy: “Commercial pirates who mass produce and sell music dirt cheap to relatively technologically unsavvy consumers,” says Tunca, coauthor with Qiong Wu of “Fighting Fire with Fire” in Information Systems Research (2013).

At first blush, individual downloaders cut into the legal publishers’ profits. “However, they also curb demand for the commercial pirate who would force legal publishers to lower their prices to compete for the less tech-savvy consumers,” Tunca says. Therefore, file sharing may suppress commercial piracy and ultimately benefit the copyright owner.

“It is unrealistic to assume you can eliminate all illegal online file sharing,” Tunca says. “A better alternative is to approach Internet file sharers as strategic allies — in a controlled way — to curb the deep losses that commercial piracy induces.”

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