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Encountering the sustaining myths of copyright
authorship, property, copyright
Tuesday, February 03, 2004 10:24 GMT

Encountering the sustaining myths of copyright

Compiled by Mayur Suresh, Atrayee Mazumdar and Lawrence Liang

1. Encountering the myths of copyright
2. Some familiar tales of loss and anxiety
a) Contextualizing Authorship and Originality
b) Copyright, Information and the Language of property
c) Copyright and the incentive for creativity
d) Copyright protects the poor struggling author
e) Economic Losses caused by Piracy
3. Conclusion

1. Encountering the sustaining myths of copyright

Copyright in recent years has acquired an all-pervasive status, entering into the realms of the everyday through various forms. It’s most common appearance is as a newspaper story about the losses caused by piracy or a description of the latest threatno-innovative attempt to fight piracy. Post September 11th, the war against terrorism and the war against piracy have become close allies. Sometimes it acquires a certain glamorous appeal when a celebrity sues another for copyright infringement as in the recent case of Bappi Lahiri against Dr. Dre or Rajnikant claming a right over a sign that he uses in his film. Apart from these stories of anxieties around copyright piracy, there are also self-congratulatory nationalist messages of how India is mobilizing on its vast pool of knowledge workers to become a global super power. Irrespective of the nature of the story told, there often seems to be a number of elements in these narratives which have a common thread running through them, and in fact it could be said that it is precisely these threads which makes it possible for us to weave together a story of copyright in the contemporary context.

It is our argument that an understanding of the insertion of the discourse of copyright into quotidian imagination is critical for an understanding of the profound transformations that are taking place within the realm of production and distribution of knowledge and cultural commodities. It is in these spaces that the myth of copyright is carefully constructed and constantly reinforced, and out very experience of media in any form is pre mediated by our understanding of its circulation within the economy of intellectual property. As Nitin Govil says “The uncanny “everywhereness” of piracy is, of course, merely the inverted image of the properly interpolated spaces of intellectual property”

This brief concept paper seeks to identify and interrogate some of the assumptions that underlie most of the common media stories about copyright. Copyright’s greatest success has been to successfully transform itself into the status of myth by constantly rendering familiar certain figures (the poor struggling author), arguments (a man deserves to own what is his rightful labour) and rhetorical data ( billions of dollars lost due to piracy). By specifically naming these assumptions as myths, we seek to question their truth premise. This is however, a task that has just begun and we shall have to work collectively to strive towards making arguments beyond merely providing counter factual, if we are to effectively counter the totalling rhetoric of copyright.

2. Some familiar tales of loss and anxiety

Exhibit 1:-

“The failure to enforce the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) laws has taken a heavy toll on the Government revenues and reduced employment opportunities, with the Government forgoing a tax revenue of over Rs.10,000 crores annually due to the proliferation of counterfeit consumer products alone, the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, S. B. Sinha, said here today. Inaugurating a seminar on new IPR laws organised by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Justice Sinha emphasised the need for training of judicial and police officers in all aspects of implementation of IPR laws so that there is adequate protection to the manufacture of genuine products and the consumer is not exposed to the dangers of consuming fake products.

Mr. Sinha emphasised the need for creating consumer awareness and class action by manufacturers so that the counterfeiters could be brought to book. He said that counterfeit products were flourishing because there was a ready market in the country for such cheap, look-alike products. The acceptance of counterfeit products by consumers comes in the way of implementation of laws. Responding to the concerns expressed by the alternate president, ASSOCHAM, R. K. Somany, Justice Sinha said there was sufficient awareness among law makers and the enforcement agencies about the need to contain the menace of counterfeiting by proper implementation of IPR laws. What was, however, urgently required was all-round societal action against the offenders. The Minister of State for Coal, Mines, Law and Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad, in his keynote address said it was critical to adjust the legal system to respond rapidly to the new technological environment in an effective and appropriate way, because technologies and markets evolve increasingly rapidly. This will ensure the continued furtherance of the fundamental guiding principles of copyright and related rights, which remain constant whatever may be the technology of the day.

It would involve giving incentives to creators to produce and disseminate new creative materials; recognising the importance of their contributions providing appropriate balance for the public interest, particularly education, research and access to information and thereby ultimately benefiting society by promoting the development of culture, science and the economy”.

The Hindu-22nd September’ 02

Exhibit 2:-

Mr Hardee told FE in an exclusive interview that Indian government needed to take a much more proactive approach to deal with copyright issues.

“India has not yet ratified the WIPO Copyright treaty and BSA would like to convince the Indian government to accept it for effective protection digital rights,” Mr Hardee said, adding that he would also discuss WTO services agreement related issues that are crucial for conducting electronic commerce over Internet.

“Intellectual property rights protection are the key to the continued growth of the software industry and a critical factor in attracting direct foreign investment. We want that Indian politicians and government official to talk about copyright issues to create awareness and also adopt strict anti-piracy policies in government departments to set an example,” he said”.

The Financial Express-21st August '02

Exhibit 3:-
Book piracy racket busted

By Our Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Aug. 26. The City Police today busted a racket involving unauthorised duplication and sale of foreign medical books from two photostat business centres in the Medical College area. As many as 150 unauthorised reproductions of several costly publications were seized in the raid. Police have filed a case under the Copyright Violation Act against the owners of the two shops. The raid followed a nationwide campaign by the Indian arm of the Publishers Association, U.K., to unearth piracy of books published by international firms. According to the police, the clandestine operation in the Medical College area was targeted at medical students. The modus operandi was to make a master copy of the foreign technical books which cost up to Rs. 4,000 each. Multiple copies made from the master pages are bound into book form and sold at Rs. 500 to 1,000 each.
Counsel for the publishers, Priya Rao, who had arrived from Delhi said the raid had unearthed bound books as well as loose photostat copies. The books were neatly reproduced and sold with brochures.

Similar raids carried out in the Museum and Thampanoor police station limits during the last two days had uncovered a similar racket in popular novels. Police raids in these areas revealed about 200 reproductions of `Harry Potter' and Sydney Sheldon novels. While the original novels cost about Rs. 300, the pirated editions were selling for Rs. 50.

The unauthorised versions were seized from book shops as well as footpath vendors dealing in second hand books.

Exhibit 4:-

SOON THE Indian Music Industry will be out of sight, there will be a cultural blackout and consumers will no longer be able to listen to music, virtually. That is what the Indian Music Industry - IMI - joining hands with the police and researchers tried to convey to consumers and media persons this past week as it held a conference to highlight the threat of music piracy. At a briefing at India Habitat Centre addressed by V.J. Lazarus, IMI President, J.F. Rebeiro, former Commissioner of Police, Abhik Mitra, MD, Saregama India Limited and Prakash Singh former Director General of BSF, the issue of piracy was raised and a campaign called `Sounds of Silence' to fight the "illegitimate music" was launched.

"Due to piracy we have lost over Rs. 1800 crore in the last three years. Despite being an offence as per the copyright act - Article 52 (1) (i) that calls for severe penalties - piracy is eating into the music companies," lamented Lazarus.

Though he reasoned that IMI has recorded 3652 criminal cases and made 4096 arrests in the last four years, only 30 cases ended in prison sentences or fines, although 191 cases ended in conviction.

He felt that this sorry state was due to a lenient attitude by those who should be providing the deterrent, while Rebeiro too admitted that for police it is one of the very low priorities. Moreover, slow processing in the courts adversely affects the required enforcement. The source of the trouble also lies in the lack of major hits and the high price of the original cassettes and CDs. For the latter they have their reasons. "People come to us asking why can't you sell a CD for Rs. 20 while the raw material costs you only Rs. 8, but they don't realise that the lyricists and each of the artistes have to be paid a good amount," said Abhik Mitra.

"If the government does not look into it fast, the industry will come to a halt within a year, for two out five cassettes and CDs get pirated now," says Lazarus.

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