The US is threatening China over their “Intellectual Piracy”, threatening to take that country to court at the WTO. China is angry about it, needless to say.

The US says that China’s failure to enforce copyright laws is costing software, music and book publishers billions of dollars in lost sales.The US also argues that China makes it hard for legitimate firms to operate.

China “expressed great regret and strong dissatisfaction at the decision”, the state news agency said. The Xinhua news agency quoted Intellectual Property Office commissioner Tian Lipu as saying that it was “not a sensible move for the US government to file such a complaint” at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“By doing so, the US has ignored the Chinese government’s immense efforts and great achievements in strengthening intellectual property rights protection and tightening enforcement of its copyright laws,” the commissioner added.

Living in the Philippines, one is aware of the piracy issue.

Often we buy full priced software, only to find out the “code” is for someone else. We have two desktop computers. One was bought used and has someone else’s Windows on it, and the other we paid full price, including a hefty price for our own Windows. Neither pass the Microsoft approval test, so we can’t get updates anymore. The vendor swears both computers had legal Windows programs.

The answer? Probably the next computer will be Linux.

(FYI: I blog with my US bought laptop with legal Windows).

Similar problems are with movies.

Like many rural cities, we have both a brand new mall, but where most people shop is the “palenke”,  an open air market where local vendors sell everything under the sun, including the latest films, music and mp3 cd’s, and software. Much of what is sold is “pirated”, but we can’t prove that.
When we buy films, often they are from Indonesia or China. Many seem to be legal, but sometimes when you get them home you see a note saying “For screening purposes only” or the film is grainy and obviously filmed by a videorecorder at a theatre. Films at the Palenke run 30-40 pesos for a Video CD. (60-80 cents).
For firstline American films, we wait a few weeks and usually then we can buy a good copy at the Mall for 300 pesos (six dollars). We usually try to be legal, but are these copies legal? Who knows.

The problem, of course, is that “stealing” intellectual property hurts the individual, as Dilbert points out.

Yet when Hollywood’s “creative bookkeeping” is notorious, and the overpricing of CD’s and DVD’s makes such items outside the financial reach of many, one should not wonder about privacy.

One Filippine writer noted that thanks to piracy, the poor can buy a used VideoCd player for twenty dollars, a used Korean TV for twenty dollars, and buy a VCD from small vendors for fifty cents. For those who make 4 to 8 dollars a day, the overpricing of both audio and video CD’s from legal sources make piracy inevitable. Without the pirates, most people would not buy the “legal” movies and music because the price is too high.
The solution is, of course, lowering the prices to undercut the pirates.
In the meanwhile, thanks to the efficiency of individual capitalism, we can buy a VCD of the latest blockbuster a week before the film opens in Manila.

Now, that’s capitalism for you.


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


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