Internet piracy taking big toll on jobs

A study into Internet piracy by a Paris-based consultancy showed that 1.2 million jobs in the European Union could be lost over the next five years if more is not done to clamp down on illegal downloading.

The study by TERA Consultants for the International Chamber of Commerce focused on piracy in Europe’s music, film, television and software industries.

Those industries generated 860 billion euros (US$1.186 trillion) and employed 14.4 million people in 2008. But in the same year, 10 billion euros and 186,000 jobs were lost to piracy, the study found.

If that trend continues – and the rapid increase in illegal downloads and advancing piracy techniques suggest it will – then up to 1.2 million jobs and 240 billion euros worth of European commerce could be wiped out by 2015.

“In the near future and even today in 2010, we observe increasing bandwidth, increasing penetration rate in terms of the Internet,” said TERA Consultant’s Patrice Geoffron, explaining that piracy was only likely to escalate.

“If we combine all those elements, obviously the impact in a few years won’t remain stable compared to what it was in 2008.”


The bulk of illegal downloading targets music, television and video sites, with consumers using “peer-to-peer” formats to download songs and video clips onto their laptops and home computers from websites without paying a fee.

In that respect it has a disproportionate impact on the creative industries, with musicians, actors and artists standing to lose the most from unfettered downloading, experts say.

Agnete Haaland, the president of the International Actors’ Federation, believes consumers need to be made more aware of the damaging economic and social impact of their illegal activity.

“We should change the word piracy,” she told reporters at the unveiling of the report in March.

“To me, piracy is something adventurous, it makes you think about Johnny Depp. We all want to be a bit like Johnny Depp. But we’re talking about a criminal act. We’re talking about making it impossible to make a living from what you do,” she said.

Haaland, whose group supported the study, said one of the best ways to reverse the situation would be stricter EU legislation to enforce existing laws against piracy.

“The European Union should really lead the way and fill the important gap in the body of laws,” she said.

“Consumers have to understand that there will be nothing to consume if it’s impossible to make money making the content.”

Marielle Gallo, a member of the European Parliament who is pushing for tighter laws on intellectual property, said the report showed how much damage could be done to industry.

But she said it would be tough to secure passage of stricter rules as several parliamentary groups are strongly opposed.


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Facebook etiquette

A colleague I just met at work has invited me to be their friend on Facebook. I don’t want to offend them, but nor do I want to share my candid photos and lousy Scrabble scores with someone I hardly know.

Can I ignore their invite?

“Can I be your friend?” might work as an ice-breaker among small children, but it’s not a question you hear often between adults, at least not outside of Las Vegas.

Friendship, it is generally understood, is a relationship that evolves through shared interests, common experiences and a primeval need to share your neighbor’s power tools.

Yet for many people, Facebook permits a return to the simplicity of the schoolyard.

Rather than inviting someone to be our Facebook friend only after we’ve become friends in the real world, many of us are using Facebook as a short-cut around all that time-consuming relationship building.

Why bother asking someone you’ve just met questions about their family, interests and ability to run a farm or aquarium, when you can simply send them a friend request and read the answers in your Facebook news feed? And so we think little of receiving friend requests after we meet someone for the first time at, say, a dinner party.

If you like the person, perhaps because they brought an excellent bottle of wine to the party, then you can accept the request in the hope of further opportunities to sample the contents of their cellar.

If you didn’t get to taste the wine because they accidentally spilled the bottle over your brand new party dress, then etiquette experts would probably agree that you can decline the friend request, send them a dry-cleaning bill and humiliate them in a derisory posting to your real Facebook friends.

In the workplace, however, the dynamic is very different. The consequences of offending someone by ignoring their friend request are greater with a colleague you see every day than with a careless dining companion you may never meet again.

So why are people you work with increasingly offering to share their Facebook output?

Joan Morris DiMicco, an IBM researcher who studies social software in the workplace, said it’s partly because some people just don’t anticipate the ramifications of sharing their personal life with colleagues.

But it’s also a function of the Facebook interface, which recommends other people for you to friend.

“Once you’ve connected to one person you work with you get recommendations to connect to others that you work with,” she said.

Of course, many people don’t have a problem with being Facebook friends with colleagues, especially those they know well. But for those who would rather keep their work and private lives separate, there are options other than ignoring an unwanted friend request.

One is to accept the invitation and then use Facebook’s privacy settings to limit the flow of information between you and your new “friend”. To do this, you can create a “colleagues” list from the Friends menu and then add to it your new friend. Then navigate to the privacy settings and use the “Profile Information” section to control what information people on the “colleagues” list can see.

An alternative, says workplace etiquette expert Barbara Pachter, is to suggest to the colleague that you connect instead on LinkedIn, a social network for professional relationships.

“You can just go ahead and ask them to join you on LinkedIn and hope they forget they sent you a Facebook friend request,” said Pachter, the author of New Rules @ Work.

“Or you can say, Thanks for asking me. I’m keeping Facebook for my family and friends. I’m asking you to join me on my professional network instead.'”

Pachter said that whatever you do, it’s important not to offend your colleague – and that’s not just because politeness is good etiquette.

“The person you offend might end up being your boss next year,” she said.


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