digital knowledge. digital culture. digital memory.

20.11.07

USA and Fiji are "nations of lawbreakers"


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Criminals by Dr John2005Let's be honest, it is difficult to spend $5 to rent a DVD for a day when you can own it for $1. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Fijians chose the $1 option. A FAVIA press release (with no supporting evidence whatsoever) claims that, "Fiji's piracy rate is about 98%." These numbers were rolling around in my head as I read a recent article by Nate Anderson on ars technica about a country that has chosen a very different path from Fiji when it comes to copyright.

Tehranian's paper points out just how pervasive copyright has become in our lives. Simply checking one's e-mail and including the full text in response could be a violation of copyright. So could a tattoo on Tehranian's shoulder of Captain Caveman—and potential damages escalate when Tehranian takes off his shirt at the university pool and engages in public performance of an unauthorized copyrighted work.

Singing "Happy Birthday" [and Happy Long-Life -cht] at a restaurant (unauthorized public performance) and capturing the event on a video camera (unauthorized reproduction) could increase his liability, and that's to say nothing of the copyrighted artwork hanging on the wall behind the dinner table (also captured without authorization by the camera). Tehranian calculates his yearly liability at $4.5 billion...

What better way could there be to create a nation of constant lawbreakers than to instill in that nation a contempt for its own laws? And what better way to instill contempt than to hand out rights so broad that most Americans simply find them absurd?
[Overly-broad copyright law has made USA a "nation of infringers", ars technica, Novemebr 19, 2007]
The USA has created a nation of constant lawbreakers by handing out absurd rights to copyright holders combined with millions of dollars of public money spent on enforcement. Fiji has created a nation of lawbreakers through a complete failure to enforce almost any rights of copyright holders.

Having unenforced laws in place for the sake of meeting Fiji's WIPO commitments (is there another reason?) may be doing more harm than good. In a nation who's elite has consistently had difficulty with the rule of law for the past twenty years, breach of copyright has become every man and woman's opportunity to join in the tradition of trampling on one of the nation's fundamental institutions. Is this really what we want for our beloved Fiji? Is this really what we want to teach our children?

My advice to the country: Either repeal the 1999 Copyright Act or figure out a way to enforce it.

Photo by: Dr John2005

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7 comments:

Wilson said...

Sounds like someone is on the warpath cause they're losing out on the competition...

thrashor said...

i guess i am just angry because comsol is selling dvds of my popular public speaking engagements and cheating me out of millions!

dtabureguci said...

or get govt to levy very high tax on blank DVDs,CDs...then no one can sell a movie for F$1

Strange Pants said...

Can we just admit that current copyright laws were not created with the digital era in mind? It's stupid to continue trying to push an outdated, unsuitable system just because it suits the traditional guardians of copyright: the big agencies and studios who deprive both artist and consumer of a fair deal.

The media industry were the ones pushing the introduction of new technology for many decades: from LPs to cassette tapes to CDs to DVDs ... and then along came the internet. And they suddenly realised that they didn't know how to market to a networked world, where people shared, and sharing was easy.

The system is broken: piracy is a problem, but it isn't going to go away while the mainstream players sit on their hands and howl about how evil digital media is.

We need new rules, new payment distribution models, and content producers who recognise that their content exists in a digital, highly social environment.

@dtabureguci: high tax on blank media will not solve anything ... You'll just get people queuing to get their audio/visual fix downloaded to their little 80GB portable hard-drive: they already have cheap ones that can plug straight into a TV and playback DIVX movies without the need for a computer.

thrashor said...

d - i guess that pirate vendors would just continue to sell for the price of the media plus $0.50 as the do now.

s.p. - agreed. most countries - especially the usa - need to rewrite their IP laws from the ground up in language that accommodates new technologies and respects a balance between user and creator rights. however, in the case of fiji, if we had a new copyright law it would still go unenforced. unless i have been misinformed, there has yet to be a single criminal or civil lawsuit in fiji involving digital copyright. the justice system has other priorities right now.

Strange Pants said...

@thrashor: good point about Fiji's "new" law being unenforced. I feel there are a couple of issues surrounding this:

1. Police resources are thin anyway, and proving copyright infringement in a court of law is not straight forward.

2. Comsol, et al. are what I call "honest pirates". They make no bones about the quality and origin of their wares. They are not engaged in trying to pass off the product as the original, nor are they trying to charge the equivalent of an original disc. They are merely meeting a demand for cheap entertainment. That demand will continue to exist, barring a sudden, enormous leap forward in Fiji's GDP and the levels of disposable income.

That our struggling local artists get caught up in this situation is unfortunate ... but Fiji will never be a particularly big or lucrative market.

We need to address protection of content, while keeping an eye on where affordability is going to push the market.

thrashor said...

or, and this would be fun, fiji could become an ip law free zone. we could build a huge data haven and millions of dollars (ok mostly shady dollars) would flood into the country.