To the youth of the nation, the term ‘intellectual property’ is familiar: we know it applies to a wide variety of creations of the mind, including, but not limited to, literary and artistic works, trademarks, and patents. We also know that the world’s intellectual property can be classified as being either industrial property, or copyright; trademarks, patents, trade secrets, etc. falling under the ambit of the former, books, songs, and art being of the latter kind.
Further, we are aware of the existence of something called ‘intellectual property rights’. We realize that men have the right to derive exclusive economic benefits from the products they create, at least for a limited time. We would not want others profiting from the use of our inventions, our research, or our (trade) practices without us getting a ‘slice of the pie’, would we?
Strangely, however, a great number among us, all across the nation, simply don’t seem to take software piracy seriously. On college campuses, movies are ripped off DVDs and shared freely over intranet, with no thought given to its being a crime; some students possess libraries of e-books that would draw the envy of every honest bibliophile, while others have gigantic music collections they almost certainly did not acquire legitimately. The worst part is that the ‘good guys’ who refrain from the aforementioned activities, and who are aware of their scale, usually take no measures to prevent or to report these instances of unorganized crime, since doing so results in prompt ostracism from social circles.
Why does this happen in spite of the existence of a huge amount of free online content? I believe it is the result of two things: an inefficient system of negative reinforcement, and an indifference to the means used for the purpose of fulfilling momentary whims.
It is also worth adding here that there are a few who think of such activities as ‘victimless’ crimes which should not, in fact, be illegal. I find this notion ridiculous: how can an act that deprives someone of something that is his by right be considered a ‘victimless’ crime?
I take nothing away from the policing departments of the country here: raids of suspected merchants are conducted on a regular basis. However, the enormousness of the population of India, and the proliferation of computer technology within the country, make the enforcement of copyright laws very difficult. Add to this the fact that the universities here cannot be bothered to check on the legitimacy of their students’ activities, and we have an atmosphere conducive to all things illicit.
Since it has been established that expecting effective policing any time soon is wishful thinking, the only solution would appear to be the one-size-fits-all “raise awareness among the youth” strategy. It is a real challenge to introduce change into the minds of those around us, especially on an issue that has been treated a certain way for very long, and not everyone will choose to stick to their beliefs in the face of derision from those around them.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, though, and it comes from an unlikely source: what may help those willing to meet the challenge of turning the status quo on its head is the rising quality of the entertainment provided through alternative entertainment platforms such as YouTube and Jamendo (a platform for free music), and also the growing quality of open source alternatives to commercial software. As these rapidly gain mainstream acceptance among the tech-savvy youth of our time, we may find piracy receding into the background, eventually to be thrown into the dustbin of history as a concept whose time is past.