Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Crime or Not a Crime?

So piracy is a crime.
May I ask, why?

Haven't we all bought fake Gucci bags when we were young (with our pocket money)...from New Market, Commercial Street, Connaught Place, Fashion Street or the like, depending on the city we grew up in?

In fact most often, I have seen exact replicas of branded products (bags, shoes, belts, clothes, watches), right outside the respective brand showrooms...on the street opposite. In Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber... (a horrible movie that I once happened to watch...on one of those days when in the DVD parlor, I was suddenly possessed by some spirit with bad taste in movies. These spirits lurk in different corners of the DVD parlors...some are posted in the Comedy section...some loiter around the World Movies section...the worst ones around the Thriller and Horror section...always waiting to possess innocent movie buffs like me. They must have either died watching crappy movies…or died before they could watch a movie that they had waited for long to release. Hence they want us to suffer as much. Tell me...hasn't it happened to you? It's true...if there are spirits anywhere on this planet...they are in DVD parlors...)

Anyway, where was I?

Ah! In Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber, Jennifer Love Hewitt (imagine if that middle name someday becomes fashionable in India...we will be left with Jaswinder Love Singh, Rudraprasad Love Bondopadhyay, Ponnamma Love Iyer, etc!!...what a shame!)

(Sorry readers, I won't digress anymore...promise!)

So, in Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber, Jennifer Love Hewitt is this hot babe in the advertising industry…a shameless socialite…a maniac of a party-goer…and a desperate social climber. She is all about looks and clothes and shoes and make-up and hair and bags and nails and …you get the drift. Spending all she earns on such frivolity, she reaches a stage where she can’t stop wanting more…and probably can’t afford more (what a profound tragedy!). Anyway, at one point in this movie, she falls in love…with a Louis Vuitton bag, strategically placed in the window display of a showroom. On finding out the much-expected and much-dreaded mortifying price, she walks out of the shop…and then, as Luck (or Piracy) would have it, she notices a street peddler selling that exact bag (exact in looks .. obviously not quality) in less than what the zipper of the original bag might have cost. She takes it.

Now, her’s is an obsession…a madness (so is the movie). But we have all done something like this. I have possessed and used (without shame) fake Nike caps, pseudo Prada bags…and yes, once I also had a Tag that cost me 35 rupees from Esplanade (was such an amazing imitation…even Jennifer Love Hewitt wouldn’t have guessed). It’s another story that it did not work for more than 35 minutes…but we are not into that today.

The point I am trying to make is…we have lived and loved in this world where ‘fakes’ are sometimes such feel-good factors. You can’t afford a real one…either accept it and live your life feeling like a deprived, wronged, jealous, selfish hag…or…give your greedy soul some balm…go to those streets…and pick up those stuff. In fact, am not only talking about branded stuff....every nice-looking thing on the shelf will have an equally nice-looking cheaper variety equivalent somewhere on the earth. Isn't shopping all about finding what you like...and paying less...knowing that you have made a compromise somewhere for paying less?

Now, I haven’t ever heard of campaigns against such imitations. I mean I have never seen advertisements and rallies and propaganda and awareness programs on ‘Buying fake stuff from the street is a crime!’ OR ‘Feel the pangs of guilt when you pick up a Prada from the street vendor…you are hurting Mario Prada’s soul…or his family’s bank balance’.

So why is piracy a crime when it comes to movies?

I tried to rationalize. Well, one reason why people are so sensitive in this matter could be that movies, art, literature are all about our ‘culture’. These are prized possessions that a country is proud of and they also generate revenue that a country cannot do without. I completely respect and understand if that is the sentiment. However, I still fail to realize why it is a crime.

Plagiarism surely is a crime. You are stealing someone’s work…his talent…his skill…his knowledge…his experience…his wisdom…and calling it your own. It’s WRONG. You miss out on quotation marks…you are a CRIMINAL. You haven’t spent sleepless nights acquiring that kind of knowledge…you haven’t read under street lights…or fought for a nation’s pride…or discovered gravity…or fed the poor and ailing…or written verses that inspired generations. So, how dare you miss quotation marks and pose as if those golden words just came out of your mind? I understand and respect this.

But those street vendors of pirated DVDs…for God’s sake…they are not photo shopping the DVD cover and inserting their names under the movie title…in place of the Johars and Chopras and Varmas. They are not claiming to have directed, produced, acted or even spot-boyed for those movies. They are simply making copies…and selling those for cheaper prices. They are NOT claiming them to be the original prints.

You want a better quality print…or want to enjoy the theatre AC, comfy leather recliners…with a Combo pack of Coke and Popcorn (that will cost you more than the movie itself)…go ahead. Who is stopping you? But if you are satisfied picking up a pirated DVD after work…knowing quite well that there may be some scenes missing….or some audio gone corrupt…or may have the climax scene with the camera pointing at a blank wall of the theatre …If you don’t mind sitting on your drab, threadbare sofa….with your children crying in the background (when your favorite song from the movie is playing)…and your phone ringing every 15 minutes (when the white-clad, blood-thirsty female spirit is just about to wring someone’s neck)…and your neighbor visiting to borrow some sugar (when the prime suspect is about to be confronted)…or your local club celebrating some puja with loudspeakers (when the aged father is proclaiming his last wish on his death bed) …or your wife pestering you to go grocery shopping (when the heroine is running her fingers through the balding hero’s hair)….or your mother chanting prayers in the next room (while you watch passionate lovemaking)….Piracy is for you.

Like all other things…if you pay more, you will enjoy more (probably). But if you are satisfied with the less-than-the-best experience, why should it be a crime? You are only paying less because you have opted for less. You are not stealing the original from a shop…or paying less than the market price for the original if you were to buy one….or paying less than the normal ticket rates if you were to go to the theatre. THOSE WOULD BE CRIMES.

True, you are depriving the Johars and Chopras and Varmas of their cents in royalty. But the point is…they did not make the copy for you. You are paying whoever had the guts/resources/inclination to make the copies and sell it in the marketplace. You are paying for the copier’s efforts. And the copier admits that he is a copier. So what’s the big deal?

Maybe I am missing something here….perhaps I haven’t thought about it from all angles. It couldn’t be that simple, could it?
But from my present state of awareness/ignorance/sensitivity, I can see no reason why there is such hype about piracy being a crime. Fails me.


The Ketchup Girl said...

Its more than just that darling. we are talking about millions and millions of rupees, pounds, dollars. I used to be an avid movie watcher in theatres, then pirated dvds came in, and made life simpler....but just look a little beyond this- if all thought the way I did, studios will go bankrupt, there'll be no blockbusters. I know i know its not like they are poor and going all kaput, but this is serious stuff. There are several parties involved in the production of a movie who have bet their monies and have bought rights to sell the film. not all have the rights to sell it, coz the rights were already 'sold' to some retailers. imagine the loss these retailers face when no one wants to buy an original K Jo film, coz they own it anyway- a pirated version.

I am not doing much about stoppng it either, but i strongly feel i should- have u seen the cinemas here in au- they are empty all the time- i am yet to see a packed theatre on atleast ONE day of the week/month.

your thought is almost communist if u ask me :D :D ..but i know where u are coming from. those poor vendors-- is ok if they make a few bucks...

its just that ideologically all piracy is shunned. there cant be - one form of piracy that can pass as right and someother form, wrong. its like telling your kid- if you steal a pen from your friend its ok,but u can't steal his cycle- its theft. Both forms of stealing are wrong.

right? what cheek i have- i spend all my sundays watching pirated dvds and am giving gyan.but you know i feel a little guilty ...

Scribbler :) said...

Dear KG,
I understand the Copyright and Distribution issue,
but my point was, howcome it's for movies alone?
Aren't there equal number of people involved in making bags and shoes and what not?
And most importantly, when you are stealing a pen or a cycle, you are taking something from someone...
not paying for it...using it...and calling it your own.
For dvds, you ARE paying for it...paying less...because you are not buying
the original...
When you buy an original...of course you must pay what it is priced at. If you shop-lift an original, that would be a horrible crime. horrible as it would be if you shop-lift from a pirated cd shop.

Why can't we think of the original and the pirated as being different products in the market?
Just like we do for all other things?
The original is a better quality product...and the pirated is a lesser quality one.
Hence the difference in price.
There are musicians who copy tunes/lyrics...and say they are 'inspired'...they add a beat or a word
here and save their skin. In changing bits and pieces, they are free from copyright infringements.
And they call it their 'original track'.
Howcome that is not piracy then? The royalty should go to the person who music 'inspired' them...and not the person who was 'inspired'.
This is because we as cosumers, are able to see the 'two versions' 'two versions'. One better than the other.
Those that like some Malik's tune more...will buy his 'inspired' music....Those that appreciate
a Richards or a Adams more...will purchase their music.
There we talk about 'taste'. Shouldn't the same concept of taste (and not crime) come into play when we are talking about dvds? You have a taste for best quality print, you buy tickets or original tracks.
You don't mind the bad-quality picture, you buy some stuff from the street.
Why specific laws for dvds only?

Debanjana said...

Nice toke blog likhte shekhalo? Dekhish baba...give me my dure credit...don't pirate that!!!

The Ketchup Girl said...

but who says copying bags et al is not piracy. its piracy alright and a very serious violation of trademark usage. its just that the film industry is fighting against it and the rest aren't all that vocal...

Scribbler :) said...

Debanjana, when it comes to blogging...I can dedicate that song to you 'Tumhi ho mata...Pita Tumhi ho...' :) Love u.

Dip Narayan said...

wow, the lady writes a lot these days! And lovely stuff too!

Did you guys talk about Creative Commons, I'm sorry it's very late in the night and I am not sure I read every line, but felt like putting in a line or two, primarily to say ."Hi," and to show a little support to the Priate a la Austraian! Coming back to teh point, I watched this nice animation movie, which is distributed through Creative Commons, "Sita Sings teh Blues."

Look out Louis Vuitton, the day of commonly copyrighted handbags are nigh!

And, may I ask, why don't you follow my blog? I mean, I don't write often, or well, but when you are putting out a list there, why am I not in that? I am very miffed and going to hold my blog-breath till you put me there! Hmmmppphhh!

Anonymous said...

Nice blog...just stumbled on it after a friend's recommendation.

I guess anything copied is a crime, even the fake bags.

However, the fake bags are generally of such poor quality that it need not be taken seriously. And eventually, they may just buy the real thing.

Fake CDs are a whole different ball game because once you have seen the movie, there is no further business to be got from you (unless it turns out to be a masterpiece or something like that)

That's how I would rationalize it anyway...I still do watch pirated movies though :)