Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Piracy as a Flattening Force

Thomas Friedman's impressive analysis of globalization in the World is Flat ( available in pirated avatar) does not consider piracy as one of the major forces which have `flattened' the world. Flattening has an effect of providing a level playing field. A person who has read the books on computer science in their pirated versions are on a level playing field with those who have read it in their official versions. The price tag on knowledge is ripped off and its consequences are both good and evil. Good for those who cannot afford it and bad for those who produce it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Gray Globalization

Gray Globalization
Piracy as Globalization and Globalization as Piracy

We, the people of India solemnly declare that we give a damn about intellectual property rights. I, for that matter declare that the colour of globalization is gray.
I distinctly remember picking up a pirated copy of Alvin Toffler’s Third Wave off a street in Baroda in the nineties when I was a student pursing my post-graduation. I threw away the book but it is still very much with me, within me. It changed the way I looked at the society around me. In those days, I hardly knew the difference between a used book and its pirated cousin. I also remember buying Eric Berne and other well-known writers off a pavement in Baroda. This was indeed a criminal thing to do. Nevertheless, the entire Indian society was criminal, buying pirated software operating systems, books, music, and so on. In short, the entire Western culture was/is being pirated and sold cheap in the Third world society. If knowledge is wealth, as Toffler argues, I feel that piracy is nothing less than anti-capitalist and anarchist act and is obviously condemnable.
Royalty is the return a person gets for her contribution of intellectual efforts, as the defenders of intellectual property rights correctly argue. Yet I feel it’s the intermediaries, as in most of the cases, pocket the large amount of profit. Here the writer, or the producer, gets very little compared to what the distributors, publishers, retailers and others are making. In piracy, only the pirates earn the financial profit. I use the term financial deliberately. The society like ours is largely poor but is very famished for knowledge and piracy comes as a blessing to an educated lower middle class person keen on reading outstanding books or using the best software. I recall that in my student’s days I possibly could not have been able to buy the original copy of the Toffler or Berne book, thanks to the pirates, I could afford it at that time. Piracy is a curse and crime from the author and publisher’s perspective and a boon from the perspective of an average Indian reader who is not able to afford expensive `intellectual property’. My stand, of course is ambivalent as I am both – a writer and an average Indian reader. My entire sympathy is divided between the writer and the reader. So typical of our times: it is impossible to take sides.
Easy availability of used copies of paperbacks in the post world war period on Mumbai streets, remarks Dilip Chitre, a reputed Indian poet and thinker, in his introduction to the Anthology of Marathi Poetry (1967) played a very important role in moulding the modernist sensibility in Marathi. Something similar can be said about pirated books and software in the post nineties third world societies. They have played a role in ushering in the software boom by equipping students and the would-be engineers in the field with cheap pirated copies of essential texts on the subjects as well as software.
Piracy seems to play a vital role in the Third World societies in the Era of Globalization. Once we start looking beyond `pro-piracy’ -`anti-piracy’ debate, we can clearly understand that such `gray acts’ play a pivotal role in the mechanics underlying cultural changes. Once we start looking beyond the blacks and the whites of market, we realize that it is the gray market that’s immensely powerful and unacknowledged in the age of globalization. All serious students of culture today will

Friday, July 4, 2008

Duty of Society towards Poetry

There is an entire Himalaya of public discussion on social duties of a poet, but hardly any discussion on the duty of society towards poetry and the poet. In nearly thirty six years of my life these are things I have realized as a poet regarding the `relation between poetry and society' issue:
I) Poetry is subject of ridicule and mockery. No one takes poetry seriously as it doesn't have any economic value or utility value. Almost everyone, including the poets, laugh at the derision they face.
II) Which proves that the whole issue of `social duty/responsibility' of a poet' is damn bloody shit