Thinking out of the box to change consumer behavior

November 2016

By Amanda Lotheringen, Senior Manager, Copyright and IP Enforcement, Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), South Africa

The importance of intellectual property (IP) rights for any country’s social, economic and cultural development cannot be overstated. IP protection is critical to foster innovation and stimulate economic growth and development. Without it, businesses and individuals cannot reap the full benefits of their inventions and have little incentive to invest in further research and development. Similarly, without IP protection artists are not fairly compensated for their works and so are unable to invest in new creations, harming cultural vitality.

In search of balance

The challenges facing national policymakers today are daunting. How can their country be more competitive in the global economy? How can they improve national innovation performance? Another particularly tricky area is how to tackle the illegal trade in counterfeit goods and piracy and enforce IP rights effectively. While counterfeiting and piracy are global phenomena that require global action, developing countries like South Africa have to take the challenges and risks associated with this illegal trade seriously. And we have to safeguard the IP rights of artists and inventors because innovation and creativity are the lifeblood of a vibrant and sustainable society.

A recent assessment of the effectiveness of South Africa’s performance in tackling counterfeiting and piracy revealed that established IP enforcement, education and awareness campaigns were not delivering the results that the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) – a statutory body responsible for, among other things, IP education and awareness in South Africa – was looking for. These findings underlined the need for a change in game plan if the country’s IP law enforcement activities are to have any impact in today’s high-tech world. 

At the CIPC, we realized we needed to think out of the box and come up with alternative approaches to complement conventional IP enforcement activities. To bring about lasting behavioral change, we needed an approach that balanced awareness about the benefits that can flow from IP rights and a strong regulation and protection regime (and the harm caused by buying and consuming counterfeit and pirated goods) with targeted enforcement measures, backed up with criminal sanctions against unscrupulous traders in counterfeit goods.

Satisfying these two needs is a delicate balancing act. But through strong collaboration, regular exchanges of information and best practices between all those engaged in the IP enforcement, and a multi-pronged strategy, we are making progress.

Collaboration is the key to success

Fostering effective collaboration between stakeholders is the key to developing and implementing effective IP enforcement policies. But it is a time-consuming and continuing exercise. Relationships that are built must also be maintained.

Since 2006, cooperation between government departments in South Africa has been ensured through the Intergovernmental Enforcement Committee (IGEC) which meets every quarter. The Committee also serves as a platform for right owners to voice their enforcement concerns. But while these arrangements guaranteed a certain level of collaboration, it needed to be further strengthened. This involved identifying joint objectives and outcomes and implementing joint initiatives to raise awareness about IP rights and responsibilities, within a structure with a single dedicated budget. This, we believed, was the only way to achieve the required level of coherence and impact. Developing and systematically communicating a single strong message can be very effective in changing behavior. This new approach involved a shift away from traditional anti-piracy campaigns toward a new concept which we called “Be Your Own Buy Your Own” (BYO²).

From wildlife conservation to the “Conservation of Ideas”

Trade in counterfeit goods and piracy is rife and a growing global problem, but efforts to combat it are often constrained by limited financial and human resources. This is especially true in South Africa. That is why the BYO² campaign linked in to the positive spin surrounding “the Conservation of Ideas” campaign (a springboard for various targeted IP awareness campaigns), which itself drew inspiration from the highly successful and well-known Big 5 (lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo and elephant) animal conservation campaign.

A tree that reaches past your embrace grows from one small seed.

(Tao Te Ching 64)

 

Just like the Big 5 animal conservation campaign, the Conservation of Ideas and BYO² campaigns identified the five major areas of IP – music, film, software, gaming and publishing – facing high levels of piracy. These sectors rely very heavily on copyright and trademark protection to create value, and yet levels of public awareness about the negative impact of piracy on these activities are very low. By introducing parallels between the need to protect the natural environment and the need to safeguard the IP rights of inventors and creators, we began speaking a language that our target audience, the general public, could easily understand.

A public-private partnership is born

The BYO² campaign was effectively a public-private partnership involving CIPC plus Proudly South Africa, the South African Federation Against Copyright Theft (SAFACT) and Microsoft, which is experiencing major problems with piracy of its software and electronic games. Each “partner” has significant scope to promote and protect copyright-protected creations in the creative industries that are hardest hit by piracy.

Following an assessment of South Africa’s performance in tackling counterfeiting and piracy, the CIPC realized it needed to come up with an alternative approach to bring about lasting behavioral change. It drew inspiration from the successful Big 5 animal conservation campaign to develop its “Conservation of Ideas” initiative, which served as a springboard for various other targeted IP awareness campaigns. (Photos: Courtesy of CIPC)

CIPC also linked up with two of South Africa’s leading universities, Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape and the University of Pretoria in Gauteng. Universities are excellent partners when it comes to promoting respect for IP. Their students are key targets of IP awareness campaigns that seek to build respect for IP in a community with easy access to a free high-speed Internet connection.

The joint effort of all the partners has been invaluable in adding momentum to a balanced IP enforcement approach that drives IP awareness and respect for IP rights through targeted enforcement actions. 

Inspiring change

The BYO² campaign conveys a positive message about creativity, a universal resource that can be fostered by people from all walks of life for personal growth and commercial benefit. We believed this was the best approach for a developing country like South Africa with its wealth of creative resources. The campaign introduces a new innovative and “off-beat” approach to building greater respect for IP in South Africa, and it is working.

The campaign is enabling us to create the space for people to get excited about IP and to celebrate their own creativity through competitions and exhibitions of local creative talent. It is built around positive IP messages that reward good behavior and help to change consumers’ views about fake products by appealing to their aspirations and encouraging them to do the right thing. Messages, such as  “Do your own thing,” “Be an original,” “Have an identity,” “Be the best you can,” “Be honest” and “Respect your own identity” are directly relevant to stimulating innovation, creating new things, supporting originality and building respect for IP. Reminding people that ideas are the cornerstones of creativity and can generate significant social – and economic – benefits goes a long way in encouraging positive behavior and discouraging piracy.

In a bid to strengthen South Africa’s performance in tackling counterfeiting
and piracy, national authorities are implementing a multi-pronged strategy
that complements conventional IP enforcement activities with compelling IP
awareness campaigns that focus on creativity as a universal resource.

In keeping with CIPC’s commitment to a balanced approach to building respect for IP, progress is also being made in tracking and tackling IP infringement on the ground. Combined enforcement operations are actively focusing on both physical and online sales. The recent establishment of a Cyber Crime Action Group that works very closely with Internet service providers to serve takedown notices on pirate sites is already making an impact. Work to further strengthen collaboration among those engaged in the enforcement of IP legislation is underway, and other initiatives to identify strategic priorities to produce the desired outcomes are in the pipeline. 

The future

Any attempt to reduce the size of the market for counterfeit and pirated goods must balance effective enforcement with awareness campaigns that encourage changes in consumer behavior to dampen demand for such goods.

As CIPC moves forward with its IP enforcement activities, data gathering to assess the scale and socio-economic impact of counterfeiting and piracy in South Africa is a priority. Work has already started within the CIPC’s Policy Analyst Department in Creative Industries to develop methodologies for that purpose.    

Success in achieving an all-important balance in initiatives to build respect for IP lies in the partnerships that are established, the teams that are formed and the cooperation that flows from them. At the end of the day, these efforts are all focused on supporting local innovation and creativity, creating opportunities for South Africans and expanding the nation’s economy.

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