On Piracy

Having spoken briefly on Copyright in my previous post(my writeup was brief, afraid I can’t say so of the linked articles), it is but natural to speak about the after-effects of the issue. Rarely do the after-effects of an issue overshadow the issue itself, atleast not since Archduke Ferdinand had been shot did the aftermath of an event overshadow the event itself. Today we seem to have accepted the 21st Century equivalent of such an occurrence, ‘Piracy’.

Like I have written in the earlier post, the concept of Copyright itself is highly debatable, and therefore it is funny to observe, one floor after another being built on a building without a base, even if it was a virtual castle-in-the-air. It makes me wonder how the ‘Industry’ people could make such a hue and cry about piracy when the concept on which piracy is based, namely, original copyright, is itself without proper foundation. Having a legal foundation doesn’t make it any more acceptable, as having a law that freely permits the killing of any fellow-citizens.

Claiming piracy based merely on a Copyright is like an illegal tenant complaining about the leaking roof. In the first place the tenant wasn’t even supposed to be living in that house. To live illegally is one thing, but to complain as if one owned the place is a completely different thing, and an intolerable one at that. Presently right off my mind, there are three such things that baffle me about this whole ‘Piracy’ issue.

First, the concept of equating piracy with theft. This one begins to get me smiling one of my best smiles, usually reserved for the para-normal jokes. Accepting such a belief would bring two possibilities into play. One, Copyrighted material specially the intangible ones are the equivalent of physical property. Two, they aren’t so. Let us consider the first probability, if such material could actually be ‘stolen’, that would leave the original owners with no possession of it. Which would mean that to actually file a complaint of theft, they would have to stop selling further copies themselves, since they don’t have any, remember, their copy was stolen. Which, given the current circumstances seem contradictory. So it seems theory number one doesn’t work out after all.

Let’s therefore assume, for now, that Theory Two, of it not being equal to physical property being true, implying therefore that it couldn’t have been stolen, in which case, the whole discussion of ‘piracy and ‘theft’ would all seem a greater joke, worthy of only those who have infinite time at their disposal. I would just like to get this one over with, by stating, if by any chance the entire ‘industry’ is run by mentally retarded people, please wake up to the fact that to equate piracy with theft, you must either have it or you mustn’t. You can’t claim somebody stole your material and then go about selling it to someone else, UNLESS the originally stolen one is retrieved from the ‘thief’. If you assume you can, what are you selling the next person, a counterfeit, isn’t that also piracy?

Second, the concept of having ownership over an unspecified, unlimited number of copies. This one starts to get me laughing, hope readers don’t mind my laughing in public. In my life, I have heard quite a number of wonderful claims, people walking on water etc. etc., but nothing as wildly closely to fantasy, as this one. Reminds me of a miser who is reported to have claimed “If only I could count the number of houses I have, I would have been a Maths Professor.” I don’t see much difference between the two. This concept is an extension of the first, wherein not only do the persons/organisations believe that they own a form of knowledge which is equivalent to physical property, they also assume that they have infinite number of these items, an inexhaustible store, the imperishable supply ready to meet a non-existent demand. To get a fair idea of the same, just imagine owning vast, immeasurable tracts of land stretching across planets and galaxies, probably a gazillion acres of land, now upon this gazillion acres of land you own, throw in a few trillion buildings for good measure, after all it can’t hurt to be any more wealthier than that. Now comes the icing on this gadzillion cake, supposing you could stake claim to all of this by walking into a Copyright office and paying a few thousand Rupees as the consideration for this inter-planetary contract. Doesn’t it illuminate what a wonderfully sane world of Copyright we are living in.

To simplify it, for those ‘industry’ imbeciles that I talked of earlier, it would mean, make up your mind, about how much many copies you exactly ‘own'(assume any number, 1 trillion, 50000 trillion, only remember, you can only sell so many, if for example, you said 1 trillion, and you accused one person of ‘pirating’ one copy, then you could legally sell only 999,999,999,999 copies yourself, since one is stolen). Now once you have done that lets move on to the next aspect of this comedy, numbers, ones you publish in conjunction with your ever ready to please ‘media’, for example readers will find it interesting to read about this ‘estimate‘ by the Indian Music Industry. I am not quite sure who writes/approves the accounts for these Industry people, but I am definitely sure of one thing, I definitely wouldn’t want be to be employed by such a firm. I guess even an elementary grade economist/accountant would know that there are two important elements in a transaction of sale, the sale price and the cost of manufacture, the difference between the two is what makes up the profit/loss to the seller. I take it that the industry is dumb enough to call multiplying Rs.150 or Rs.200 per CD * 10 Million CD’s(pirated) as the figure to project as losses(both to the Government and itself). I do not mind such estimate, if only I could be more sure of the cost part of it. Could the industry tell me how much of these 1500/2000 million Rupees, has it actually ‘invested’ to ‘lose’?

To illustrate further, lets assume you have set up a 10×4 shop to sell flowers, and stocked it with flowers from your garden, with an intention to sell. Lets assume somebody else has also set up shop beside yours to sell flowers he has plucked from your garden,(obviously without your permission), at a price grossly below the price you are selling. What exactly is the quantum of your loss, is it the amount of money that the other guy makes on selling your flowers, is it the amount of stock you have unsold in your shop because nobody bought your flowers and preferred his instead, or is it the amount you have invested in growing the flowers in your garden? That is only the first question, the second being, will your answer change in a scenario where, this person seems to have exhausted all the flowers in your garden, and is seemingly plucking flowers out of the air above your garden, or maybe putting all those flowers illegally plucked into a replicator and multiplying them, or probably even worse for the consumer, he’s putting all those flowers onto a photocopying machine and delivering the copies to newer consumers. In such a scenario, would your losses magnify to a photocopied exponential level? Oh, pardon my poor memory, I seem to have forgotten that your garden itself is inexhaustible, the moment you pluck a flower, your plant immediately spawns a new flower to take its place, so that it is ready to be plucked from again. In which case, could those people auditing the books of these ‘magical gardening’ firms please tell me, what should be considered as the amount of loss?

Third, the concept of losing revenue from somebody who was never their customer in the first place. This again is an extension of the second concept, readers will obviously appreciate the link between the three concepts when I get to the end of this paragraph. This one makes me break into a guffaw, and I am sure I know atleast one person who is not pleased to see me guffawing. This one deals with their view on those who ‘distribute’ free copies of their works. A worser kind you might say, atleast the other florist was charging something, which could help us quantify numbers to publish, how do we quantify numbers for something that is given away as free? What the hell, write up the entire amount as a loss, makes for a prettier picture of sympathy than the best soap opera. Having set up a competitive shop as a florist, can you lose revenue from the mere fact that there existed somebody who never intended to pay for anybody’s flowers, but was nevertheless, looking to place flowers in his flower vase. If such a person was also a criminal, which crime was he chargeable for, the crime of having the right not to buy a product, or the crime of not paying for the product, that was auto-spawned by God’s grace in your field?

This concept accuses those who approach either those who have bought products from either the ‘Authorised Florist’ or his ‘illegal’ competitor, and request them to put these flowers that they have ‘paid’ for into a replicator/photocopier, and take the resultant output to enjoy for themselves. Wait a minute, didn’t the farmer/florist spend a lot of trouble engineering a magical hybrid flower that auto-spawned itself to give him a botanical version of the ‘golden goose’? Didn’t he pay a princely sum of a few thousand Rupees to the local Policeman to stay at his farm full-time and ensure nobody pluck his flowers, and also pay for the right to drag those who didn’t buy these ‘magical’ flowers from him, as also those who didn’t buy them from anybody but nevertheless managed to get their hands on one, without plucking them from his garden(that’s the problem with creating magical varieties you see), into Court, where a Magistrate whose four generations of grandsons were probably supported and taken care of with that princely sum of a few thousand that the farmer/florist paid the Government(don’t forget to also count the Grandsons of the Policeman) to deliver swift and merciless ‘Justice’ in favour of the farmer/florist, and make threatenigly sure in future the defendant bought flowers only from the farmer/florist and ‘paid in full’ for them. How can the Government let anybody and everybody make clones of these ‘Golden Goose’ flowers when somebody(the farmer/florist) had already paid them to expressly disallow the same?

I guess, some things are never meant to be covered all at once, or rather some meals are too large to be finished in one sitting. So that brings me to end this article, hoping atleast one ‘industry’ person has been able to light his candle. For those of you who were waiting to see my supposedly ‘magical’ solution for all this ‘maniacal auto-spawning flowering plants’ business, I must apologise for not being able to provide the same right now, in this article as promised, that honour(or should I say disgrace, well I shall let you decide) is reserved probably for the next article “On Anti-Piracy”(let me hope that one doesn’t drag on like this one did, forcing me to write another article specially for this purpose, probably titled “On Solving All This Mess”, or maybe that is a good idea after all)

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