Thursday, September 15, 2005

Stop Thief!

What is it about Intellectual Property Rights that gets people so inflamed? Living in Pakistan, where IPR's are about as unknown as a duck billed platypus, there are some interesting views floating around. My first personal encounter with IPR's came about a decade ago when I approached to Microsoft to buy "real" software from them. It made no sense to work at an office on bootlegged stuff. The whole edifice could come crashing down any minute-client records, correspondence, forwarded jokes. The price that was quoted to me was so preposterous that I gave up almost immediately. "I'm trying to help" I floundered "but at these prices you're inviting piracy." "Sorry, there's nothing I can do" replied the dweeb. Well. I tried.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to plough through a feasibility report that a friend was putting together for a music recording company. The figures were interesting. Record royalties were unknown in Pakistan. The bootlegged sales eventual took over. The real money came from concerts. However, India was a different ball game altogether according to the study. There everyone seemed to pay the regular price for a genuine CD. Ofcourse, India has its own prices which are half those of the regular Dollar price. Why can't these guys do something like that over here. If I did encounter "real" music or software at a "real" price I would buy. If prices can be revised to cover a huge potential audience in India, then why not in Pakistan.
Last night I was at my favourite CD haunt. As with all other shops in Pakistan everything here is bootlegged. Not a single genuine article in sight. As always, the bulk of shoppers there are expatriates. French, German, American, Chinese. It is the United Nations of the bootleggers. "These are the people who write reports on IPR violations" hissed a friend audibly. She's not wrong. Sales are now so extensive that the shop has baskets into which illicit CD's are heaped by the dozen. At around two Dollars a DVD that's not as extravagant as it seems.
At a moral level, there's the whole question of theft. The information stored on CD's is after all the property of the author. In many cases the "authors" (say Mr Gates or Mr Spielberg) are pretty rich after all and wouldn't miss the few cents they would have received had my sales been legit. Or that royalties on such products are exorbitant? But these are quantum issue which detract from the underlying morality. Had I been a Marxist I would have argued that all property is theft, but sadly I don't quite fall into that league either. In fairness to myself I can say that I buy the real product whenever it is on offer. But what do I when it's not? Do I forego the next season of Desperate Housewives because it is stealing? Or do I argue that I would have bought the real McCoy if the idiots who owned it bothered to give me the opportunity to buy it? If I were to draw up a Powerpoint pie chart (on genuine software!) I think most of what I buy is real and royalties do end up with the authors. But how many people can afford to shop online in Dollar terms? Can we all dine at the Ritz? So many questions. So few answers.

6 Comments:

Blogger say what? said...

there has been talks and they will release versions for this side of the world as well.

This started from India and will continue onwards from there. Since most companies have major holds in India, they dont usually care for a market that wont provide them with sizeable number of customers.

Another big problem is that the softwares made by companies in US are generally expensive, they dont consider 100 dollars to be expensive. Here i can essentially buy a second hand console pc for that amount. It is changing and it needs to change. Lets hope for the better.

9:46 am  
Blogger livinghigh said...

u mean ppl still BUY CDs these days? lol... i;m quite terrible.. i make rich brother buy de CDs and then i burn them on my comp! lol. guily as charged!.

2:41 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget that cable operators air pirated films on their 'channels' right under Pemra's nose.

11:12 am  
Blogger rocky said...

i always get pangs of guilt when i buy pirated dvd's or download music. i generally try and make it a point though to never buy films of my favorite directors from bootleggers (unless it isn't available in my city, which is quite often the case!). basically, if an artist/director/author is REALLY good, then they deserve my money.

pakistan can't expect people to understand the value of IPRs or implement them, unless it actually raises its standards of living, income per person and makes a move towards minimizing poverty and unemployment. given the awful conditions, i doubt anyone in the country could really give a rats ass about mr. spielberg not getting his bit from them, for the viewing pleasure of "war of the worlds" - most of them don't earn in a year what he earns in a day!!

1:48 pm  
Blogger Phantoms and Voices said...

If MS Office is what you are using mostly, and cannot afford the authorized software, and want to be on the right side of the law use OpenOffice (http://www.openoffice.org/). Arguably it provides better functionality that MS Office and if you enjoy tinkering with code you might even begin commiting code.

Personally, I don't use any MS products. My work involves a ton of computing and I do very well with Linux and the entire open source community. I support it and am pretty sure, thats where the future of good software is.

2:24 am  
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