You know those ‘FBI warnings’ that appear before a movie starts on a DVD stating that ‘piracy is bad’. I did like the concept… the way it goes ‘would you steal a purse, a car’ and stuff. But the overall warning – I found it a little funny, particularly when it would be running on a pirated DVD in the first place. Whoever rips those, ripped the entire movie onto the CD.

Piracy exists. And a lot of us even are a part of that. True story.

In the world of online property, there is a constant fight between those who produce the stuff and those who just want to own it. Nothing is sacred – movies, music, art, photos and now even books.

The thing is – how many of us really think of the fact that we are doing something wrong, much less breaking a law, when we download something? There are plenty of torrent sites… if one shuts down, the other is born almost instantly. There are always ways of going around the walls… and there are people who sit and devise these ways constantly.

The question is – where do you draw the line? A friend of mine who recently moved to the US was completely put off downloading when his roommate received a notice from Netflix stating he had illegally downloaded something. In the US,where such things are monitored, it is easier to track piracy. But in places like China, Russia and even India that have a complete lack of enforcement (if not the laws) of such things – what does one do?

People don’t draw the lines themselves. Everyone loves free stuff… so people would download free music, even if it isn’t to their taste sometimes.

DVDs in India continue to be above the reach of most people, even with the rise in earnings. Movies and music are mostly ‘luxuries’ and for those who really intend to delve deep into these worlds, they need to go hunting and pay more for such commodities. iTunes, which is perhaps the best way of accessing music, has locked down much of its contents, not to mention the last time I checked (which was a while ago) they said I couldn’t download music in India, even if I did pay for it.

I was annoyed. Here I am, willing to pay for the content and they tell me I’m not allowed simply because I live in India, even if I have a proper means of paying for it?

There are other factors that filter in… delays in movies releasing here, the outrageous prices of tickets (300 bucks or more for ONE movie per head? Seriously?)

These aren’t excuses for piracy… but they do make it easier to go the other way. But most people do not think twice about shelling out 50 or 100 bucks for a DVD, which has the same quality of one in the local store, that costs nearly thrice the amount. International movies cost more. Music CDs are almost a thing of the past… I love music but the only device that even plays these things is my computer.

But looking at piracy from an artist’s perspective –

I’ve had one artist friend tell me that he doesn’t care who downloads his music as long as people listen and appreciate. He puts up a lot of his music for free anyway. “Art isn’t mine once it leaves me,” he said.

I’ve another friend who hates the thought of someone ‘stealing’ his hard work.

I agree with both… I enjoy the process of creation and if someone really liked something I did and asked me, I would probably just give it to them. But sometimes, when a lot of money has gone into it and you don’t really have much left in your pocket to buy a cup of tea, you wish someone would pay for whatever you have done too. And that comes with the additional ego boost that someone loved it enough to really ‘own’ it.

JunkYard Groove posted this note on Facebook, talking about piracy that suddenly made me remember how much money goes into making an album. Particularly in the starting stages.

But since the beginning of Napster, a revolution has begun. The music world will never be the same again and the industry needs to find another way to make people pay for the music. Movies – yes, people would perhaps shell out for the DVDs. But music – that is an art which most enjoy and can be easily downloaded and shared. Even after one downloads the music, it is shared with others, sync’d and listened to on various devices. Considering the number of gadgets we carry with us, it is really annoying not to be able to transfer it on my own devices. One of the joys of music is, after all, in listening to it with others.

The same problem applies to online books. One of the joys of reading is sharing it with others. But here I am, paying almost $10 for a book (why the high costs when it doesn’t involve printing or storage or transportation) and I love/hate it but I cannot share it with a friend unless I lend my entire ‘library’. Of course, there is an easier way for this… tag the file such that only one copy of it exists. So if you email it, your copy is gone till that person returns it to you.

But that goes against the online concept where everything is always accessible.

The solution?

I really cannot think of one. I enjoy listening to music and there will always be pirated music floating around. When I buy music and share it with friends, I do not think of it as piracy. It is more of spreading the love. Do we stop people from sharing? Or do we just celebrate the greater cause of art?

(Edit: There was a huge controversy recently about a copyright on a photograph. Digital photos have flimsier protection than music. And now, to add to the mix, someone states that famous paintings and monuments should also have copyrights to the extent even photographing them and sharing it would be a violation. Where do you draw the line?!)

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