When I came to the Philippines, I ripped my CD collection into MP3’s and brought most of my collection here on mp3 CD’s or on my hard drive. I had a fairly nice collection of “elevator music” (to use my son’s description), mainly because I worked in rural areas where it was easier to listen to Rush or NPR’s talk shows than it was to hear the type of music I enjoyed.

As for here in the Philippines: yes, we can hear Matt Monroe on a Manila station in our car radio, but inside the house, we are lucky to get the Tagalog talk stations from the next city.

When I was a student, I owned a radio with tape player, and when a good song came on, I’d just push the “record” button, and soon I’d have my very own music mix.

Taping music off the radio was something we learned as a kid, with an old fashioned tape recorder and a geek brother; it was something we did in our family. Indeed, my mother had a collection of classic radio shows recorded on a disc which back then was called a “record”, copied by my uncle, who was also a geek (Geekery runs in the family…duh).

I’m not sure what I’d do if I were a student, and given the choice between using a P2P download or not having my favorite song on my mp3 player.

From last week’s news:

…US District Court Michael Davis said the fine imposed by a jury on Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a single mother of four from the town of Brainerd, veered into the “realm of gross injustice.”

In a high-profile music piracy case, Thomas-Rasset was found liable in June of violating music copyrights for using the Kazaa peer-to-peer file-sharing network to download 24 songs.

So now, she only has to pay$54 000.

The irony is that she was not fined for downloading the songs, according to Wired,  she was fined for having songs in a folder where others could download the songs from her, even though she did not make money off the transaction.

So the big lawyers are going against students, while ignoring the big elephant in the room: the massive copying of films and music by pirates in Asia. If I want a Filipino mp3, I can get a them on cd’s at the Palenke, or have the local internet cafe put what I want on my mp3 player.

Buy a computer locally , and after a month, a window from Microsoft keeps popping up saying: Hey you know you might have pirated software?

What can you do? Cry? Pay a second time to get “genuine microsoft” after you already paid the computer store for it? Same thing for a lot of software programs.

(I use Ubuntu/Linux, so I’m legal, by the way).

As for films: we have three movie cable channels on our TV for recent movies, and I found a lot of the classic films now can be found on You Tube.

But the irony is that you can usually find a VCD with first run movies at the Palenke the week before they open in Manila.

Want to see Avatar? My granddaughter just bought a multi movie disk (she wanted to see the lastest Chipmunk movie) and after she brought it home, we found it included Avatar.

Gee, those pirates are efficient. And cheap. They have to be cheap, because when the average salary is 300 pesos a day, who is going to fork over 300 pesos for a legal DVD film?

So you buy them at the Palenke.

Yes, it’s  fuzzy, but what do you want when you buy 5 movies for 75 pesos?

(About $1.50).

As for books: I can’t download from Amazon, but I hear they are feuding because they sell books for under ten dollars, and the publishers are angry.

But here, we can buy paperbacks at a Book store for full US price, or wait till we get them at the used book store for 50 pesos. I used to buy used books at Amazon and have my relatives M bag them here for me, but since the US Post Office eliminated the cheap MBag book rate, I can’t afford to import used books anymore.

For best sellers, not a big problem. The real problem is medical textbooks, which have to be updated every couple of years, and cost over 100 a piece.

It was a big problem when I worked as a missionary (usually folks mailed their old textbooks and medical journals over by snailmail M bag, but as I noted above, that is no longer available).

So now if I want to read an up to date Medical textbook, I either have to pay over the US full price, or see if someone nice has downloaded it to the Pirate Bay. Yes, there are fancy expensive programs to get medical information to third world docs, but my point is that they are fancy programs, reinventing the wheel when cheaper but illegal downloads are much more efficient and user friendly.

(If you have a viable internet connection, finding medical information on line is easy…but if your internet or electricity is down, you need a textbook to look up the information you need).

So the irony is that the copyright laws have led to the worst of both worlds.

Pop items are available all over, because the chance of an individual getting caught and fined is small next to the millions who use the P2P service.

But where modern technology could actually help in poor areas, in textbooks,  the profit isn’t enough for the pirates so you are still stuck paying high prices for school and college textbooks.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind clinic and Fishmarket. 

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