Pirates Among Us

A Local Nepali group had organized a New Year Party here in New Jersey. Two very well known artists were invited to perform.To my utter dismay, there was a table set-up with hastily written “$10” on a piece of paper next to stack of CDs. The artists were plugging their own pirated CDs, without any qualms. Party goers didn’t seem to mind, they were flocking towards the table to take a glimpse. I am not sure how many of them actually bought, but they sure seemed to to enjoy the spectacle being staged.

Piracy has become a spectacle in Nepal and also among Nepali diaspora. Far from appreciating its gravity as a serious criminal act and breach of trust, many see it as a trivial issue whipped by the West. Writers, designers, programmers, artists-all have been victimized by the

culture of piracy and yet our legal system is moving excruciatingly slowly to deal with the issue.

In this case, the artists were not being victimized. They were instead victimizing the music company which invested thousands of rupees to release the CD. Either way, it was a criminal act. But sadly, it was accepted. Just imagine, in that same party if someone has snatched a purse or punched someone. That would have been taken very seriously, the case reported to the Police. Why is it different when a person steals someone’s intellectual property? It is property after all.

Recently singer Rekha Shah made headlines when after years of struggle, she was recognized as the rightful contributor of a very popular folk song. A milestone for artists struggling to gain recognition for their work and effort; nevertheless a painful reminder that successful

career and mass recognition does not guarantee immunity from damages of piracy. A well known singer like Shah had to endure such a long struggle, think about how many unnamed artists and creators must have been pushed to the sidelines?

This piranah culture, destroying those to create for immediate gain, is a talent killer. Singers have complained with regularity that pirated CDs have made it impossible to make decent living as a singer; writers-especially those publishing online, are seeing their works plagiarized, which cuts their advertising revenue and page views; and computer programmers and designers are also facing loss of revenue due to piracy and un-authorized distribution.

These not propganda from the West, this is happening to Nepali artists, writers, designers and programmers. Yes, it is true that the issue of piracy affects limited section of society with enough disposable income to spend on music, software and designer clothes; but it is of national interest nevertheless.

Artists and writers are symbols of  a society and  a nation. What purpose does it serve to let these talented souls struggle to get their due, just so that few can have access to free or cheap items?

Existing copyright laws and trade protection laws are not updated to meet the demands of changing marketplace. By ignoring this legal void,the government is ignoring these artists and writers. It is a signal that these people are not important enough to be protected. If industrialists and big business face any problem, services are swift. Factions with political clout also get preferential treatment. Just to show that our priorities need to change.Piracy is not a minor annoyance, it is killing jobs and hurting creative souls. There has to be a better to system to make sure that intellectual property rights get same respect as regular property rights.

Bhumika Ghimire.This article first appeared at GroundReport on May 4,2011. Shared with  Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


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