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


Dilip Barad said...

I agree, it is not fair to use / read pirated software or books. But the point is why do one need to buy things form pirated market and help in flourishing 'gray' market? One of the reasons is its cost. If Microsoft decreases in profit to a level where neither it suffer any lost nor user has to pay heavily, then most of scrupulous conscience-bit fellows like us would go to buy the original one. I would like to give an example. Chetan Bhagat's books are sold in gray market in 60 Rs and in stores in 95. I have talked with several young people who preferred to buy book at 95, b'coz that was not so costly. Young Indians don’t want to sell their soul for only 30 bucks. Similarly, movie-lovers would buy Moser Bears CD/DVDs - original ones instead of pirated DVDs or even rent pirated CDs. Again the same reason. Its cost is much lower and affordable.
Piracy businessmen are modern day Robin hoods. They snatch rich publisher/producer's share and share among the poor reader/users. Thus to conclude, I would go for pirated things if I think that the manufacturing cost of that product is much lower than it is sold in the market. There is nothing wrong in cheating the cheaters. Your comments, please!

Dilip Barad said...

Second thought: Shakespeare has answer to all our dilemma: "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." Hamlet.

Unknown said...

ther r sum evils tht cannot b eliminated or wishd away. piracy is 1 of them. a $25 book 4 a us student/reader is affordable to a greater extent thn a 25x43=Rs.1075 book 4 th average indian student. its all a question of income-buying power ratio difference between a us and an indian buyer. u and i or any1 els cannot hope 4 a better tommorrow so long as th 2 greatest evils in our world exist: corruption and population. v can only hope tht lord krishna fulfills his promise of coming back to eradicate adharma. or, as ghalib says,ibne mariam hua kare koi; mere dard ki dawa kare koi.