Jiong Chen '10 Examines Digital Piracy in Levitt Research

Jiong Chen '10
Jiong Chen '10
China has long been criticized as a haven for piracy. The degree to which it exists there is so alarming that it would shiver ye timbers and condemn you straight to the depths of Davy Jones’ locker. At least, it would in the United States. But the kind of piracy that goes on in China is not usually discouraged, and is treated as a normal part of life. More than 90 percent of the Chinese population takes part in the search for the treasures of digital media culture, not gold. While citizens get much of their business software and electronic entertainment for free, their laid-back attitude has made piracy the number one issue for digital media companies that wish to make a profit. This summer Jiong Chen ’10 worked on a research project on the subject with Professor of Economics Elizabeth Jensen.

His research was funded by the Levitt Research Fellows Program, which is open to all students who wish to research a topic related to issues of public affairs. The program is designed to promote student collaboration with faculty over the summer.

The central problem with piracy involves the debate of intellectual property rights infringements (IPRs). In China, enforcement measures have not been successful in deterring massive IPR infringements for several reasons. First, China relies on administrative instead of criminal measures to curb them. Second, there are few resources they can use to monitor the piracy that takes place. Finally, there is a lack of public education regarding the economic and social impact of counterfeiting and piracy.

Chen examined the impact of piracy that so many Intellectual Property Associations have ignored. To contribute to his studies, he s scrutinized journalistic and scholarly writings, in both English and Chinese. In addition, he studied reports from the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) and Business Software Alliance (BSA), conducted interviews with Microsoft, and spoken with local Chinese media firms.

Chen grew up in China, and upon coming to the U.S., he noticed the marked difference in the intellectual privacy here. “I wondered, ‘why can’t China do it?’’ Chen asked. “Well, it turns out I was wrong. Piracy is not always a bad thing, especially for the economic developments in China.”

Most of the articles he read stressed the responsibility of the government, but did not clearly express why the enforcement is weak. Chen feels the solutions they recommended are too ideal and place emphasis on the victims, rather than the foreign beneficiaries. Throughout his research, he has found that it is more practical to refine business models in the current environment, rather than hand over the responsibility to the government.

Chen sees now that it is important to shift one’s mindset when dealing with other nations’ or people’s outlooks. “I learned that I cannot look at an issue from one perspective,” he said. “We need to put ourselves into other people’s worlds and see clearly how they should function.”

He is an economics and mathematics major planning to attend graduate school in statistics after Hamilton, and thinks he would enjoy working with insurance companies after he earns his degree. He is currently a member of the Intramural Sports Committee and Outing Club.

Chen is a graduate of Shanghai Foreign Language School.
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