I have been reading a discussion about Computer Book Piracy
on the Yahoo Group ComputerBookAuthors.
As most piracy discussions, this too has got into a developed vs developing nations argument. Here’s my two cents on the matter.
I think it is hypocritical for those nations where P2P file sharing is an important source of music to blame India and China for other forms of piracy. Most music piracy and P2P file sharing that happens, happens from the developed world where people have the luxury of fast broadband connections and always-on connectivity. Why is every latest English song available on Morpheus and Kazaa? China and India hardly care about English music and anyway most people there are stuck with slow dial ups and so using P2P networks is unthinkable.
Check these reports from theregister.co.uk:
Now that isn’t very honest …
As far as books are concerned, it completely baffles me from where these ideas of mass computer book piracy in India come from. I even read a comment that books get pirated to India and are printed on rice paper !!! Anybody who has lived in India would know that this is obviously untrue. I doubt how many Indians would even know what rice paper is and where it is available.
It seems that the west isn’t willing to give up this notion of India being a land of snake charmers, tigers and mystic godmen. Yes these things are very much part of India but a small part at that. Watching just American western movies would make one think that everyone in America wears cowboy clothes and has gun battles on the street. Now is that real?
Software piracy is a fact in India but computer book piracy is not. The reason being that computer book publishers have been smarter than s/w vendors and instead of trying to sell international $50 books in India, come up with Indian editions that have an inferior quality of print and paper and have an Indian price. Nobody in India objects to this as everybody understands that the publisher had to do that to keep the cost reasonable.
Books get pirated when publishers are slow or reluctant to release their books beyond US and Europe. You cannot hold back information these days. You do not provide a legal way for knowledge and information to flow and you invite people to pave an illegal way.
A developer in India is just as aware of new books and technology as a developer in the US. So if a publisher publishes a book about a latest technology and even many months after the US release an Indian version doesn’t appear, then the developer looks for pirated versions online. If all books are priced appropriately and released simulataneously
in the developed as well as the under developed countries, piracy will not thrive.
It normally takes 3 to 6 months for books/software/movies..to be officially launched in India.. 6 months is like eternity in today’s world.
The approach to sales in India and China has to be different. The publisher/software vendor will get small margins but big numbers. If I am not mistaken, something like 1/4th or more of humanity lives in India and China and millions of these are techies and potential book / software buyers.
Basic human tendencies don’t change that much across nations. Tagging everybody in India and China as a thief is I think an improper generalization based on inadequate information. A "Blame the developing world" kind of solution to piracy is never going to work. A pragmatic approach backed by good public awareness campaigns is I think the only way out.
While every human has the potential to be a law breaker, it is also true that by default everybody wants to be on the right side of the law. It’s circumstances that determine how difficult or easy this task is.
Note: I am an author of three Java books and so piracy is definitely hurting me. I am based in India and so my opinions aren’t unbiased.