digital knowledge. digital culture. digital memory.


Anti-piracy group tags along on clean-up campaign

New to this blog? Why not subscribe to its feed or sign up for free email updates?

Here is an interesting issue to start off the new Digital Fiji blogging year. I hope you find it stimulating. -cht

Copyright, especially copyright of digital materials, is a complicated legal issue where the discourse is highly polarized. One side of the argument emphasizes the rights of the owners of intellectual materials, ranging from movies and music to photographs and software, to control and charge for each and every single copy of their product. On the other, one hears chants of "information wants to be free" from users who demand free and unrestricted access to their music, movies, ebooks, and so on. The former group labels the latter as pirates while the latter labels the former as bloated big business with no true interest in the artists that created the material that they own and not respect for reasonable rights for users. If you hazard to express an opinion on a topic such as the widespread availability of pirated DVDs in Fiji's shops, you are likely to find yourself labelled as belonging to one of these two camps whether you feel yourself to be a member or not.

I was not particularly surprised to read the brief article in the 15 January 2007 Fiji Times entitled, Audio body fights piracy which states,

The Fiji Audio Visual Industry Association [FAVIA] has followed the military in its clean-up campaign by tracking down illegal suppliers of Digital Video Disc's (DVD) in its fight to curb piracy in the country.
It seemed inevitable to me that the fight against DVD piracy would try to dove tail on the Fijian military's clean up campaign. However, I took a look at the FAVIA public notice that was released two days previously (here in PDF) and it does not make any such claim, although it does make several other surprising statements. While selling low priced copies of DVDs without the permission of or compensation for the rights owners is illegal under any copyright regime, this notice remains a good example of the hyperbolic discourse on the topic of digital copyright around the world. It is clearly more interested in evoking an emotional response - namely fear, uncertainty, and doubt (or FUD in marketing terminology) - than in clearly articulating a rational position. Here is an excerpt from the heart of the notice:
1. The Fiji Government has lost about $40 million in Customs Duty and VAT in 2005 because of piracy, yet no action has been taken by FIRCA against the pirate stores despite complaints by FAVIA.
2. According to FIRCA in 2005 over 3.3 million movie recording storage devices of various formats were imported into Fiji.
3. Fiji’s piracy rate is about 98% making Fiji’s piracy rate one of the highest in the world.
4. Major studios such as Sony Pictures who shot parts of the movie “Anaconda” in Fiji are very disturbed with Fiji’s lip service against piracy and do not wish to invest in Fiji thus potential investments worth several millions of dollars are being lost because of piracy.
5. Pornographic and violent films are being sold unlabelled to people of all ages including your young children.
6. You as customers lose out on original value products and are being robbed of your consumer rights.
7. Fiji is rapidly losing local singers, artists, producers etc to overseas countries because of piracy.
8. Research shows that major pirates internationally have links to terrorist activities.
9. Fiji subsequently loses out on favourable trade agreements due to piracy.
Selling black market DVDs is illegal under Fiji's current copyright law - full stop. You can form your own opinion about whether it is ethical. FAVIA's own statistics indicate that the vast majority of Fijians currently avail themselves of this merchandise almost to the exclusion of the legitimate market.

Where the debate on copyright is much less cut and dry, both in legal and ethical terms, and thus more interesting, is around the more subtle questions of the copyright such as the following,
  • Are you breaking the law if you back up music CDs that you have purchased from a legitimate source onto your home computer? What if you rip the CD so you can listen to it on your MP3 player?
  • Is it illegal to download music from free sites on the Internet?
  • Is it illegal to upload music to the Internet? What about sharing one copy of your favorite song to a friend? What about 20 friends?
  • Is it illegal to use software to break the copy protection on legitimately purchased DVDs in order to make a personal back-up copy or to load it onto your video iPod?
  • Do libraries or schools have special privileges when it comes to copyrighted digitital materials?
The answers to these questions are not clear in the current legislation and they have certainly not been tested in Fijian courts. Addressing questions like these have dominated the legislative agenda for copyright in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States, and many other countries in recent years. Fiji will be increasingly pressured by foreign interests to take a clear stand on many of these issues and this will require an overhaul of the Copyright Act. One key challenge for Fijian lawmakers and the courts is how the notion of "expressions of folklore" (in Section 2 of the 1999 Copyright Act) might become entangled within the intricacies of high tech copyright issues. How Fiji chooses to address these copyright issues will lay the foundation for the future of digital culture in Fiji. Choose wisely.


Fjäderlös Tvåfoting said...

Hi, greetings from Sweden.

I´m a blogger myself.
I just surfed around, and found your page, are you really in Fiji?

It sounds nice, here in Sweden we got -6C right now, its freezing.

Take care,

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

That's a very interesting subject you raise. Yeah, I've seen lots of examples of pirated videos in Fiji and 'the authorities' are sluggish about checking the whole scene out.
What is fair? Big business make huge profits? Some little guy copies a few videos (and some sneak into cinemas too as I've noticed dark bodies moving in front of the scene at times!) to make a living?
98% in Fiji is breaking copyright?
Anyway thanks.
Another topic of course is concerning academics who do research in Fiji, write about/tape/film ethnographic material that really belongs to a particular mataqali/group who ought to be recompensed and certainly acknowledged in the research? Intellectual property rights etc.

thrashor said...

Wendy - Thanks for the comment. Perhaps it is understandable that the enforcement of intellectual proterty rights has not yet reached the top of the policing agenda in Fiji. However, it is a reality that the global economy is increasingly an information economy, and if Fiji wants to play a larger role, Fiji must decide, and enforce the decision, what its stance is on copyright.

It is interesting the Fiji's current (1999) copyright act does mention cultural material. However, it would be a serious mistake to require academic researchers pay to , as you say, "write about/tape/film ethnographic material". Researcher do not have to pay to site other books, performances, or recordings and cultural material ought to be no different. However, commercial use of cultural material and performances is another story.