Question: Medosch argues that: “piracy, despite being an entirely commercially motivated activity carried out in black or grey markets, fulfills culturally important functions” (Reader, page 318).
Debate on piracy is getting more serious over the years especially since the emergence web 2.0 and P2P network which encourages the act of information sharing. The major concern for copyright fighters is the benefits of media content producers, the wellbeing and income model of people that devote their entire life into art and media production, and the decay of legitimate media business caused by the rise of grey and black economy driven by piracy issues. At the same time, critics of copyright accept the existence of piracy, and gives credit to the positive effects that are brought by piracy. This essay takes on the latter position, and looks into the positive roles of piracy.
Piracy for Accessibility
In many developing countries, access to cultural contents from other societies is very limited. Due to the unbalanced distribution of capital and resource, only a few media products can make their way in these countries through legitimate channels. Medosch (2008:81) argued that ‘in markets such as China, privacy not only serves to provide access to the products of mainstream commercial movie industries, may it be Hollywood, Bollywood or Korea, it also fulfils gaps in provision and provides access to art movies and more difficult fare which does not get official distribution for whichever reason’. Privacy offers people in these places cultural goods and media contents that they had otherwise no chance of obtaining.
Take the Chinese movie market as an example. Strict government censorship policy sets blocks into distribution channels, thus results in the lack of accessibility, and gives rise to a huge online black movie market due to various reasons, politics related, violence, and so forth. That is the main reason why citizens choose pirated copies online rather than those legitimate cut copies in the market. China’s government has been introducing the intellectual property law in recent years by tearing down hundreds of pirating channels, including pirated CD markets and illegitimate online resources. On the other hand, the government is not providing any alternative solution for citizens to gain access to movie markets through legitimate channels, but further prevents them from accessing those resources. Since demand for pirated products never goes down, shutting down one pirate server only leads to a larger amount of piracy supply in other places.
Piracy for Cultural Survival
The emergence of Nollywood provides a great example for piracy as an alternative for the distribution and exchange of minority cultural products. While boosting the economy in Nigeria, the existence of piracy allows the exchange of African culture and gives the Nigerians a persona on the media stage. Moreover, Sundaram (2008) argues that the existence of pirate modernity is survival strategy for it encourages inexpensive expansion of computer culture in third world countries and provides a practical education to thousands of people that are left out of the technical universities.
Medosch, A. (2008) ‘Paid in Full: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’, Deptforth. TV Diaries II: Pirate Strategies,London: Deptforth TV. pp. 98-100
Sundaram, R. (2001) ‘Recycling Modernity: Pirate electronic cultures in India’ Sarai Reader 1:93-99 <http://www.sarai.net/publications/readers/01-the-public-domain/093-099piracy.pdf>