One of the assigned readings from last week that really intrigued me was Tristan Mattelart’s piece on Audio-Visual Piracy. I find it very interesting that the definition of piracy has shifted from unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted material used to make a profit to just unauthorized reproduction of a copyrighted product. I’m also very fascinated by this idea of piracy as a criminal activity. As Matterlart writes, “the criminalization of piracy is a theme that runs through all the documents produced by organizations working to combat the phenomenon on behalf of the industries they represent. ”
Mattelart does a fine job of analyzing piracy from a social and cultural perspective. It’s important for us to understand that in other parts of the world, piracy is a social norm. As a matter of fact, piracy is a part of some country’s economies. Take, for example, the country of Nigeria. According to Mattelart’s research, “the pirate video market, be it in analogue or digital formats, appears in some African countries to be behind an entire sector of the economy – in Nigeria this is thought to employ up to 300,000 people. (Sauvé, 2006: 14 and 302).” Stunning, right?
But there are all types of piracy that extends beyond counterfeited bags, unauthorized downloading of music, copying and selling videos/movies, etc. Software piracy is an issue the Middle East IT sector faces. According to the website ameinfo.com, ” a report from the Business Software Allaince (BSA) has revealed that in Saudi Arabia alone, the commercial value of unlicensed software stood at $304 million in 2009 and although figures are improving in the region, software piracy remains a major issue.”*Similarly, in 2008, the Indian Music Industry reported losing 50 percent of profits due to piracy and was struggling to “keep its head above the water.”**
Interestingly enough, piracy is also part of other country’s cultures. In different parts of the world, including some countries in the Middles East, including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and sometimes Dubai, intellectual property and copyright don’t mean a thing. In fact, in Iran, Hollywood movies that are still playing in theaters in US are being copied and sold in shops. And quite frankly, it’s a cultural norm. Similarly, knock off designer bags, like Jimmy Choo and Chloe, are sold while a salesman/woman will convince you that it’s authentic. While these things are sold in legitimate store in Iran and people will spend a large amount of money for a counterfeit product, here in the United States, knock-off products are usually sold on the streets and are generally looked down upon. So really, while piracy is considered illegal in this country, it’s part of the culture of another.
Just as a closing statement, I’d like to clarify that I am not encouraging piracy. As a matter of fact, I believe it’s a real issue and that more needs to be done about educating the general public about the destructive nature of piracy. Rather, I am providing some insight on what piracy means in other parts of the world.