Toward Détente in Media Piracy

Negotiations around intellectual property rights (IPR) are increasingly a key factor in international trade and an important item on the international development agenda. International treaties such as the World Trade Organization's Trade Related Intellectual Property Systems (WHO-TRIPS) agreement, as well as bilateral (free trade) agreements, have focused on strengthening and expanding international property protection of films, music, books, computer software and online services.

At present, the primary reference on piracy used in trade discussions consists of reports produced by the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) - an association of United States copyright industries. It can be argued that these reports are narrow accounts of media piracy presenting an economy of alleged loss to northern-based multi-nationals at the hands of southern pirates, and that they perpetuate a negotiating advantage for the rich economies who lead the call for enforcement of the global intellectual property regime.

This project is based on the premise that piracy remains a development rather than a criminal issue, i.e. the fact that knowledge commodities in the developing world are primarily - and in some cases exclusively - mediated through pirate markets. This is especially true of enabling tools such as software and the increasingly digital record of cultural heritage. Researchers will undertake a set of country case studies aimed at better understanding the nature and extent of media piracy in Brazil, India and South Africa. The Ford Foundation is supporting additional country studies in Russia and the United States. The project is expected to provide the basis for more rational debate on the issue of media piracy and give Southern actors greater leverage in North-South trade negotiations over access to knowledge goods, especially software.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

End Date

Thursday, April 14, 2011


40 months

IDRC Officer

Sayo, Phet

Total funding

CA$ 1,107,168


Brazil, South America, China, Far East Asia, Europe, Russia, North and Central America, United States, South Asia, North of Sahara, South of Sahara, Central Asia, India, South Africa


Networked Economies

Project Leader

José Marcelo Zacchi

Project Leader

Ronaldo Lemos


Instituto Sócio Cultural Overmundo

Institution Country


Institution Website

Project Leader

Lawrence Liang

Project Leader

Ravi Sundaram


(Director) for and on behalf of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

Institution Country


Project Leader

Libby Lloyd

Project Leader

Willie Currie


Association for Progressive Communications

Institution Country

South Africa

Institution Website