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 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 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 spark as physical embodiments. The digital form of expression carries many advantages but also opens some potential threats. One of threats is the vulnerability of copyrighted work to cyberattacks and cybercrime.

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?

Article 10 of the Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe defines that each party to the Convention is obliged to adopt legislative and, and other relevant measures, as 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 published its Cybersecurity Strategy for the Digital Decade on 16 December 2020 aiming to build resilience to cyber threats and ensure citizens and businesses benefit from trustworthy digital technologies.

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 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, CYBERSPACE 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 in today’s digital era.

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. The project aims to 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.