Piracy Ahoy!

It’s the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, except the few whose toes the mighty animal steps on. And those toes belong to musicians and artists across Pakistan through the years.

Music piracy and copyright infringement is rampant in Pakistan. Walk along the busy streets of the city, and you’re bound to come across a shop or even a stall selling illegal DVDs and CDs. Though we have record labels and even distribution outlets, piracy is as rampant here as it is off the coast of Somalia – albeit on a different medium and level.

In the last 25 years, Pakistan has become one of the global hubs of audio and video piracy. The country is ranked by International piracy watchdogs within in the world's top 10 pirate nations. And this ranking will climb onwards unless there are drastic measures adopted to put an end to illegal copying. Some watchdogs are even referring to Pakistan as “the new China.”

The International Federation for Phonographic Industries (IFPI) represents the recording industry worldwide, with a membership comprising some 1400 record companies in 72 countries and affiliated industry associations in 44 countries. IFPI's mission is to promote the value of recorded music, safeguard the rights of record producers and expand the commercial uses of recorded music in all markets where its members operate.

In 2005, the IFPI wrote a letter to the then Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, in which the organization stated that illegal replication facilities in Pakistan were doubling their copying capacity every 18 months. In a list compiled by IFPI, the top 10 countries where piracy is “at unacceptable levels” are Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Russia, Spain, and Ukraine.

Also, thanks to advances in technology, the medium of piracy is also advancing. Where there was one video cassette with one movie, now we have one DVD filled with 10 movies. Where we had audio cassettes with one album of one musical act, we now have a CD filled with the entire collection of the artist in MP3 format.

Piracy is not confined to physical aspects such as CDs or DVDs. Thanks for formats like MP3 and its respective playing devices, people now have the choice of not paying at all for their music by downloading it for free.

With such easy access to music and movies, and nearly free of cost, why would anyone want to pay for it in the first place? There have been efforts in recent times to establish proper channels both in the music and movie industry, but competition against piracy which is free and more easily available has always been a one sided battle.

The solution to piracy will not come from abroad, it will start right here at home. Though our music industry is still in its early stages and record labels are just started to learn the ropes, it will be industry and labels that will bring a fighting chance against piracy.

On the topic of copyright infringement and royalties, things aren’t much different. This nation has produced venerable legends in music, with songs that have shaped eras and touched the hearts of millions. These legends have indeed been overlooked, not just the fact that they haven’t been given the proper credits or copyrights, but because they have literally been overlooked. Instead when their songs “conveniently” become “inspiration” for new hits across the border, their name and hard work fade into the shadows of history.

Artists like Sohail Rana, Nisar Bazmi, or even Alamgir, have been overlooked as mentioned in Lost Icons, Lost Cause (IMAGES on Sunday by S Faruqi), have either left the country altogether or this mortal realm.

In the big picture, we ultimately forget that out of all of the parties involved, all the artists and companies around the world, it is Pakistan that gets hurt the most. When artists and labels in Pakistan ultimately find it not feasible to continue producing and making music, they will leave the room and leave the elephant, that is piracy, by itself.

One of these days, the elephant is probably going to be too big for even the room to handle.

1 comment:

muha said...

Piracy is the opiate of the masses.