21 Jul Applicability of law to economic espionage as a method of hybrid warfare
Economic espionage is a serious threat to the national security of all of the western-based economies as a segment of coordinated actions. The legal challenge from the state coordinated economic espionage is two-folded. First, there is no legal norm, standard, or principle that incriminates espionage at the international level. In fact, international law does not prohibit espionage at all. The incrimination of espionage is at the domestic level and respected by the national criminal law of the state (usually recognized as a significant crime). The applicability creates all the challenges especially if the state is not willing to cooperate (prosecute the company or the individual) and/or extradite. Also, usually the suspect (individual or corporate CEO(s)) are usually government agents or extended hands of the state agencies. For example, this was the case (although there are many other relevant examples) when the US-based corporate pointed out that the Chinese armed forces are behind the industrial espionage, which of course was denied by the official Chinese authorities. The act of espionage is usually in favor of a domestic company after which there is a great possibility that the company that has gained access to the information stolen by the espionage would be an advantage. Besides criminal law, one could argue that international trade law might have something to offer. Although international trade law is an option its applicability to economic espionage is almost impossible. In his article D-r. Russel Buchan made a comprehensive analysis of several potential scenarios over the applicability of international law in terms of economic espionage. One of the options that the analysis is the applicability of the so-called Paris convention on intellectual property just to conclude that the applicability of this convention to intellectual property is extremely hard due to the attribution challenge (Paris Convention 1969) Additional issues in this contest represent the distinction between individual responsibility from the collective responsibility (the leadership of the company as a whole).
These methods of acquiring political and strategic ends pose serious pressure on western democracies and their allies. As a result, to protect public safety and national security these authorities are pushed to sacrifice democracy and democratic governance. This unequivocally urges the international community to find an appropriate solution to these emerging challenges. Similar challenges come from the applicability of the international law of armed conflict to counter hybrid-based threats.