Local News

Apr 25, 2014

Mutiny! Pirates In T&T!

By Kavish Seetahal

 

Yo Ho Yo Ho a pirate’s life for me? Or piracy that even Jack Sparrow might object to!

Our country is riddled with movie and music pirates. This is no different to any developed or developing society, and it seems that, despite all efforts, this piracy continues to be on the rise. The pirate DVDs that cover our pavements are like black sails, and what we as citizens entertain and support as cheap movies and music which creates employment for those who sell it, is robbing and plundering the treasures of someone else and is stifling the creativity which we partake of. But why? Why are we so drawn to look the other way, or to even become part of this tidal wave by purchasing the products and saying “Hang the code and hang the rules!?”

It all boils down to dollars and cents. It seems so much cheaper to buy these pirated copies than to shell out our hard earned wages for expensive originals. Moreover, with the online era we live in, comes digital piracy which makes it almost free to view and download movies. So then how do we stem the tide of piracy?

It seems too simple to state that it’s illegal, because, even as a crime, street piracy is given room to breathe and grow. It’s not that important on our country’s bucket list in light of serious crimes and so is referred to as a “soft crime” (“that eh hurting nobody”). But, let us offer a different perspective. It seems too simple to state that it’s illegal, because, even as a crime, street piracy is given room to breathe and grow. It’s not that important on our country’s bucket list in light of serious crimes and so is referred to as a “soft crime” (“that eh hurting nobody”). But, let us offer a different perspective.

In a Paper done for the Ajman University of the United Arab Emirates in 2004 organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization, research indicated that, “…piracy has an adverse effect upon public security, where profits from this trade are appropriated by organised crime, which uses them as a means of recycling and laundering the proceeds of other unlawful activities (arms, drugs, etc.).”  Piracy thus appears to be a factor in promoting serious crimes, including terrorism. In January 2003 the World Customs Organization (WCO) stated that the trade in counterfeit and pirate products was as high as US$450 billion per year which was controlled by organised crime and was being used to fund terrorist activity. Do you still think that piracy is a soft crime?

Even if we refuse to acknowledge that we are funding terrorism by supporting piracy, let us offer even another perspective.  Do you think that Jack Sparrow, the pirate that he is, would appreciate this piracy? The answer is “NO!” We as consumers cannot expect creators to continue creating in an environment where we do not care enough to pay for their creations. The individual’s desire to create becomes another sunken ship in these perilous seas. Srini Vasan, a celebrated US filmmaker once stated that uploading pirated movies has a real and lasting negative impact on the revenues for content owners. So we are not only funding criminals but we are also robbing the innocent. Yet even this argument does not seem to sway us to dig in our pockets to pay top dollar for something we can get for rock bottom prices.

This is the very reason that programmes are being developed to combat the scourge of piracy. This is the very reason that programmes are being developed to combat the scourge of piracy.

With the coming of Netflix and iTunes to T&T, the availability of legitimate movies has now become affordable. On these platforms we have a wide array of content to choose from whereas with pirated versions we are limited to one movie.  So for instance, does it not seem easier to subscribe to Netflix in the comfort of our homes, and stream unlimited high quality movies for less than $60.00 per month, rather than contribute to purchasing fake, sub-standard quality movies?

Another avenue to fight this piracy was born in South Africa and is known as the “Bliksem” initiative. It involved an attempt to get creators to lower their prices on original DVDs to compete with the prices of pirated copies. Again, if legitimate copies were affordable, wouldn’t you pay for the real thing instead of the sub-standard pirated copy?

The truth remains that these pirates, with our help, seem to have thrown another “coup d'état” on the rights of creators. We encourage citizens to look at the alternative means to access legitimate content instead of supporting criminal activity. Let us now find a means to fix this situation, Savvy?

While on the note of copyright check out the Digital Copyright Report for 2014