By: James Swain (www.jimswain.com)

Question: It sounds like security is important issue.
Bob Smith: Absolutely. There has always been an issue of test security. People who steal tests are not only costing us money, but they’re also harming the industry and depriving the test authors of royalties. Having a stolen test floating around is potentially quite harmful.

Question: It’s not easy to stop people from stealing, especially in the Internet age. What steps are you taking to stop people from pirating your company’s material?
Cathy Smith: We have two employees who regularly surf the web, looking for people who are reproducing our content without permission. They’ve gotten very good at catching these folks and getting them to delete any of our content off their Web sites.

Bob Smith: On every order we send out, there’s a statement on our Order Form that says the Customer agrees to abide by the rules and not reproduce our products without written permission. 

Question:
How do you deal with someone who you catch stealing PAR products?
Bob Smith: Usually, a letter or phone call asking them to stop will do. Most people ultimately want to do the right thing.

Question: What if it doesn’t?
Bob Smith: We have hired attorneys in numerous situations to protect our copyrights, and we will continue to do so.

Question: Recently, a student at Harvard was prosecuted for downloading and sharing music files. A noted law professor at Harvard defended him in court and used the argument that the Internet is meant to be a free medium, and therefore cannot be controlled. The student lost the case, and is now on the hook for $400,000 in damages. How do you feel about that?
Bob Smith: I agree with the verdict. The student was stealing.

Question: What would you say to someone who was thinking of pirating your company’s material or tests?
Bob Smith: Don’t do it. Our products are very useful and they are valuable products that are used to help people make better decisions. By infringing on the copyright, you could help to invalidate the measure, causing harm not only to the instrument, but to the test publishing industry, the authors, and most importantly, to the client/patient.

PAR’s position is that Customers may not release copyrighted and confidential material to individuals not professionally qualified to obtain, review, or interpret them. PAR’s instruments are trade secrets protected by intellectual property laws, including copyright and trade secret laws. Their usefulness and validity would be greatly compromised if they were available to the general public.

Cathy Smith: All materials in our catalog and on our Web site are protected by copyright. This applies to all Web site information, testing products, and everything associated with them.

Submitting a completed PAR Qualification Form and/or placing an order to purchase materials from PAR implies your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

Question: Do you allow your tests to be rented?
Bob Smith: No, our products are not for rent. We do encourage the use of our proprietary tests in research projects. However, we require that a formal written permission agreement be obtained from PAR prior to beginning the work if a modified version or only a portion of test is needed.

Question: It sounds like you run a pretty tight ship.
Bob Smith: It has always been this way in this industry. Test products must be kept secure. Our products are highly restricted and will stay that way.
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.