Copyright infringement as a form of cybercrime

What is copyright?

Copyright (or author’s right) is a term that commonly refers to a regulation or set of regulations that define the scope and protect the rights of creators of literary (including software), dramatic, musical and artistic works in terms of how the work is used and protection against unauthorized use.

In most European countries, copyright arises when an individual (an author) creates a work that is original and exhibits a certain degree of labour without prejudicing the commercial, creative or any other value of the work or its purpose, size, content, way that is it is expresses as well as the admissibility of public communication of its content.

In specific cases, certain rights that fall under the scope of copyright may be granted to legal entities (e.g. employer’s copyright).

Cybercrime – the way into copyright infringement

In the broadest sense of the term, cybercrime is any criminal activity involving a computer, networked device, or a network carried out to generate profit for the cybercriminals or to damage or disable computers, computer networks or devices maliciously.

Living in the digital era, it is becoming less common for authors to express their creative sparkle as physical embodiments. The digital form of expression carries many advantages but also opens some potential threats. One of them is vulnerability to cyberattacks and cybercrime. Some forms of copyrighted work are, by nature, conditioned to be in a digital (electronic) form, such as databases and computer software.

As a consequence, copyright infringement and cybersecurity-related issues are at the hearth of many EU-funded research projects including the ones where Privanova takes part such as CYBERSPACE, which focuses on enhancing cybersecurity, improving cooperation and the reporting of cyberattacks in the EU.

What is copyright infringement?

Most European jurisdictions find any unauthorized act of performing any of the exclusive rights vested in copyrighted work (moral and proprietary rights of an author) as an act of copyright infringement.

Can a copyright infringement result from a cybercrime?

The Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe in Article 10 defines that each party to the Convention is obliged to adopt legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offences under its domestic law the infringement of copyright.

Consequently, any act of cybercrime that, as an action or as a consequence, constitutes an unauthorized performance or utilization of any of the exclusive rights of the author vested in the copyrighted work is considered a criminal offence. Some jurisdictions have specially defined as a criminal offence any act of unauthorized removal or alteration of electronic information on copyright and rights related to copyright.

EU Cybersecurity Strategy and corresponding research initiatives

The EU has published its Cybersecurity Strategy for the Digital Decade on 16 December 2020. In parallel, EU has funded many projects tailored to deal directly with cybersecurity issues and cybercrime in general that substantially affect people’s lives, primarily in Europe. Some of the most representative examples of such projects where Privanova is involved are CYBERSPACE, CC-Driver, TRACE, CYRENE, and AI4HEALTHSEC. These projects are primarily focused on identifying gaps and problems in cybersecurity across different scientific areas.

CYBERSPACE and its relevance for fighting copyright infringement

The EU Cybersecurity strategy claims that “Only a fraction of incidents are reported by Member States, and information sharing is neither systematic nor comprehensive.” To address this issue, the CYBERSPACE project provides LEAs, policymakers and the private sector with a better picture of the extent of cybercrime and cyberattacks in the EU. The project will stimulate stakeholders to report such attacks (including those resulting in copyright infringement) to their LEAs and CERTs. The project will map to whom such attacks should be reported and the actions taken in response.

CYBERSPACE aims to enhance the detection of hacks and attacks and improve cooperation between LEAs and between LEAs and the private sector in accordance with the EU Cybersecurity Strategy and with that to affect to improve security and lower the impacts on all life areas and industries, including the creative and software industry, which is a major contributor to copyright.

CYBERSPACE – reducing cybercrime-related copyright infringement by facilitating international law enforcement cooperation

One of the aims of CYBERSPACE is to directly contribute to the international law enforcement cooperation. Regional and global law enforcement organisations such as EUROPOL and INTERPOL are identified as the key stakeholders in the project. We aim to increase our collaboration with them and, in turn, directly contribute to the reduction of cybercrime-related copyright infringement. Besides, within the scope of this project, Privanova will engage and collaborate with stakeholders such as the European Cyber Security Organisation (ECSO), Information Security Forum (ISF), SME associations, LEAs and CERTs to increase the reporting of cybercrime in general.

Illicit money flows and copyright infringement: the TRACE project

Organized crime networks operate on a global scale and use legal loopholes, as well as technical innovations to protect their activities. In this context, the TRACE project focuses on the ICT-enabled crimes and illicit financial flows (IFFs), which are increasing every day.

The project deals with these legally challenging, technologically complex and financially significant issues by delivering innovative, AI-powered policing tools that help law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and financial intelligence units (FIUs)  detect hidden and illicit money flows.

In the context where, for example, the intellectual property rights infringement sucah as the illegal creation and trade of NFTs (works of art such as audio, video represented in a digital form) can be facilitated by their exchange for cryptocurrency, the applicability of the copyright protection in the “virtual world” becomes obvious.

Drawing upon Privanova’s professional experiences from INTERPOL, UN and similar international organisations, we support the ongoing research activities in this field performed by the TRACE consortium by ensuring the interaction between the consortium members and end-users. In particular, this means the liaison witht the global law enforcement community. This is done in order to enable both sides to address the issues related to the development of tools for locating and mapping hidden service directories, forensic analysis and data provenance models.

Being part of several expert networks including the INTERPOL’s Cybercrime Knowledge Exchange and the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee for an International Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes, Privanova is able to significantly increase the visibility of the TRACE project outcomes, thus increasing the overall project impact and ensuring better international collaboration in the cybercrime area including the copyright infringement as one of its significant aspects.