Dealing with Piracy -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Dealing with Piracy

Piracy is a copyright violation. It is the unauthorised use of material, which is covered by copyright law, in a manner that violates one of the original copyright owner’s exclusive rights. In modern culture, mostly for electronic and audio-visual media, unauthorised reproduction and distribution is referred to as audio/video piracy.

A question arises about how piracy started and why is it increasing day-by-day? Supporters of piracy claim that due to high prices they were compelled to do this. Not only in Pakistan but in the whole world, piracy supporters say that piracy is prevailing due to Western monopolies over knowledge and sources of knowledge.

The concept of piracy in Pakistan is not new. In this era of globalisation, piracy is hitting every part of the globe. In Pakistan the situation is very critical. The government launched a campaign four years back by taking action against illegal CD/DVD manufacturers in Karachi and Lahore and destroyed thousands of pirated CDs and DVDs.

The anti-piracy campaign started after pressure on Pakistan from the West, particularly some US investors. There are two general types of piracy. The major one is electronic piracy, which I termed as electro-piracy and another type is conventional piracy.

First we have to understand both types. Piracy of music items, video material, software and videogames is hugely being done worldwide through electro-piracy. In this type of piracy, people just hit the search button of any search engine on the internet and get their desired item.

People can download any movie, software, music item and videogame — to do this all they need is an internet connection and a computer.The scale of conventional piracy is much higher than electro-piracy, but surprisingly, conventional piracy is being done through electro-piracy because it is much more diverse than conventional piracy.

Now, electro-piracy has become a major problem of the modern world. Pirated items are mostly the same with the addition of books. To understand the potential of electro-piracy, let me give you an example. When President Musharraf’s book, In the Line of Fire, was launched, it was freely available on the second day of its release on the internet in Portable Data Format (PDF) form.

Piracy of books is not just limited to course books of various higher studies institutions. In conventional piracy, books of foreign authors are published in low quality and at low cost.

Piracy of books shares just 25 percent of the total piracy and the remaining 75 percent strictly consist of electronic stuff like software CDs, including video games, DVDs and tapes of movies (mostly Western and Bollywood) and low quality audio/video CDs of local artistes with lower price than the original.Company-manufactured CDs are known as ‘white CDs/DVDs’ after the strict security check on manufacturers.

Low scale vendors then started making pirated CDs and DVDs through personal CD-writing machines because the demand was still rising and those CDs/DVDs are known as ‘green and blue CDs/DVDs’ respectively because of their magnetic coated colour. These green/blue shaded CDs/DVDs are 50 percent less in cost, but also low in quality.

Before the government action, prices of white CDs and DVDs were Rs 30-80 and Rs 80-150 respectively (prices vary according to the location of vendor), but now they have been reduced 40 to 50 percent. So the man who used to buy 10 CDs or DVDs now has doubled the quantity, regardless of the quality.

Simultaneously, the export of pirated stuff has been doubled. Now the government cannot do anything against them because there is no specific location of these ‘home manufacturers’. Business of manufacturing pirated CDs/DVDs has turned into a home-made small business industry, which is growing rapidly at the micro level.

Let us have a look on piracy, which is totally borderless. It is already powerful and still empowering itself due to its diversity and piracy, which is the main bridge of all kinds of pirated stuff. To overcome this problem, let us have an example of India. It was also facing the same problem before the establishment of the IT industry.

When Bangalore was not the haven of software engineers and IT experts, beginners of IT initiated their studies with pirated stuff. After sometime when the government observed that to compete with the West it will have to take further steps, it started creating an appropriate atmosphere.

Leading publishers got licences to publish their books in India as ‘low price editions’ of medium quality, which are neither the prototype nor pirated. Now the condition is that those Indian-published books are being imported in Pakistan because locally published pirated versions are far less in quality than the Indian versions.

Pakistani pirated versions are very difficult to read and understand because of their low quality paper, printing and binding.The Indian strategy does not end here. As Bollywood grows rapidly and steadily, it is getting closer to achieve that certain level of Hollywood.

However, they are also committing copyright infringement, but with a different style. Piracy of Western movies and music is also being done there, but the positive aspect is that their productions — whether music items or movies — are not being copied.

The reason behind this is that in India there are many well-established companies that release their productions in good quality and at reasonable prices.This trend in Pakistan is new and being followed, which is a good sign but still requires some attention. Prices of quality Pakistani productions are not economical, so mostly people look for other ways to get what they want. Some publishing houses have started publishing low price editions after acquiring licences, but still the numbers are quite small. If the government wants foreign investment, it should first change the atmosphere according to international markets, and also give official support to the private sector.

Leading foreign investors are reluctant to invest in Pakistan, which means that the government will have to take substantial steps to get rid of piracy, because as they say, “There is no sweet without sweat.”
Source: The Post
Date:9/7/2007