Intellectual Piracy (Part 1)

By: James Swain (www.jimswain.com)

Every business that produces copyrighted material–from movies to TV to books–is facing the issue of intellectual piracy of its products. I sat down to discuss this topic with Bob and Cathy Smith to see how PAR is dealing with the important issues of copyright infringement and test security.

Question: A couple of basic questions first. When did PAR start creating its own products?

Bob Smith: When PAR first got started, the majority of the products we sold were developed externally by authors and sent to us for publication consideration. If we accepted a product, we would provide editorial and production assistance and then market the product. As the company grew, so did our ability to provide a collaborative, internal system of developing products. Today, we internally develop most of our test products in collaboration with outside authors.

Question: What do you see as being the big difference between developing tests now versus when you got started?

Bob Smith: It’s much more expensive now to develop tests than it was in 1977. Unfortunately, the potential revenue doesn’t support the development of some good products today. And because it is so expensive to develop most new tests and because our staff has great test development expertise, we most often develop tests in collaboration with external authors.

Question: Is there an average length of time for creating a test?

Bob Smith: Typically, it takes 3-5 years to develop a test from its conceptual stage to a finished product.

Question: Can you tell me how many tests are presently in the development stages?

Cathy Smith: We presently have over 40 tests and new software products in development.

Question: There is presently in our culture a philosophy among certain individuals that the Internet was intended to be free, and therefore it is not a crime to download books, music, and movies, and then share them with other people. How do you feel about that?

Bob Smith: I strongly disagree with the current philosophy that all information on the Internet was intended to be free to share. It costs a significant amount of money to develop a product.

Question:  People who steal copyrighted material often don’t understand the ramifications of their crimes. For example, the music industry has seen an enormous decrease in new music being released. At the same time, the price of tickets to live music events is skyrocketing. As a result, going to concerts is becoming something that only a small portion of our society can now do because of cost.

The same thing is happening with books. Last year, Publisher’s Weekly reported that $3 billion dollars in books were stolen over the Internet. As a result, the industry has raised prices on books a whopping 15-25%, making it difficult for many people to buy books.

Do you see the same thing happening in your industry?

Bob Smith: Thankfully, no. We’re in an industry where the sale of our products is restricted to those who have certain qualifications as well as the training to use our tests. In addition, the tests are supposed to be kept secure. People in our industry understand that a stolen test could completely invalidate its use. So stealing is not nearly as prevalent as it is in other industries, at least not yet.

Cathy Smith: We are very careful about whom we sell our tests to and how our tests are distributed.

Question: What about people who try the old-fashioned approach and illegally Xerox your tests?

Bob Smith: In addition to having the copyright notice on all our tests, we also print a warning on our tests that states that if this test is not printed in a specific color of ink on white paper, then it’s an illegal copy.

Question: Has anyone ever reported illegal use of your tests?

Bob Smith: Yes. And we follow up on every one that is reported to us. Sometimes we even have to notify the head of an organization that one of their employees is illegally reproducing our tests.

Visit our blog Thursday, May 27th for the conclusion of this blog on the topic of intellectual piracy.

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