Prologue: Call of nature vs. Attendance roll call
It is currently Friday, 9:18 in the morning. Why am i not in my ICT class? The the door was locked before I was able to slide myself in. I arrived in UP around 8:30 AM. Why was I locked out? Because when it was time to go to class, I opt to respond first to the call of nature rather than hold it for a while until I get called in my ICT class. What's in this blog related to ICT? Nothing, because I am missing my ICT right now.
I can just imagine my classmates now, in ecstasy in getting their minds nourished by priceless ICT wisdom. While for me, I am here ranting because I have nothing better to do to enrich my ICT IQ aside from practicing my typing prowess.
Enough bitterness. Time to put my time to good use. Here's serious thinking (because I have nothing better to do for the next three hours):
PIRATES VS. CORPORATIONS: BY HOOK VS. BY CROOK
The wisdom of western law deems unauthorized reproduction and distribution of multimedia and software as illegal. Since our country, like most third world countries, got a ready-to-cook legal framework from an country which boldly exports its user-friendly ideals, it is only natural to embrace the western legal philosophy that protecting intellectual property rights encourages inventors and artists to perform their work to the fullest. Everybody has heard the rhetoric that justifies abhorrence to multimedia and software piracy. Let this article be the first of two to advocate piracy (first of two because I intend to write two articles in my spare three hours; I just won't post the second right away because it will suffocate the blog page of my crazy ideas).
Philippine laws should be relaxed to allow reproduction and distribution of copyrighted movies, music and software, i.e. allow piracy. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. To weigh the advantages vis-à-vis the disadvantages of piracy, two multiplicands should be measured: the number of people affected, and, the amount of utility piracy or non-piracy brings to these people.
Two groups of people are affected by allowing or disallowing piracy: the producers and the consumers. Since the contents of pirated media or software are specialized knowledge, the producers are few. Producers are usually large multi-million-dollar corporations and consumers are everyone else – from the few on top of the social pyramid who to the masses who comprise most of the population. Even if the copyrighted work involved many people in its creation, the population of the market of the copyrighted work is still far larger. For example, if the production of a movie involved a thousand people, the consumers of the movie far outnumber the creators. First, movies usually are marketed nationally; second, the mere hypothesis that at least one friend of each person in the production of the movie would go and watch the movie already offsets the producer-consumer ratio; third, the shelf life of the movie exceeds mere showing dates for the movie will also be marketed as rentable videos, cable television shows and free television shows. The same logic applies to software wherein software installed in a single computer will likely be used by at least five people during the software’s lifetime, repetitively.
The utility to producers in disallowing piracy are loss of labor, loss of creative output and eventually the death of the movie, music and software industries. These are overemphasized arguments thrown without analysis of the flipside.
First, labor will not be lost. Multi-million-dollar international corporations assume that they will lose money because they will lose costumers because people will choose pirated products over theirs. At the poverty rate of the Philippines, mere basic needs exhaust the budget of consumers. People have no resources to avail of expensive original movies, music or software. People buy pirated movies, music or software not because they are cheaper alternatives but because they have no money to buy originals. Take away piracy and people still will not have the money and hence will still not buy originals. The portion of the population who has a choice whether to buy originals or pirated versions is insignificant to topple multi-million-peso corporations for jobs to be lost.
Second, creative output will not be lost. Necessity is the mother of invention. Creativity is mind’s exercise of its playfulness. Inventors do not invent for the sake of money. Artists do not create for the sake of money. Historically, humans invent and create not for pecuniary goals but to satisfy the natural instinct to pursue growth and seek fulfillment. If inventors and artists are after money, they would not have chosen such careers in the first place. It is much more profitable to work in large industries than to be a lab rat or a penniless painter. Curiosity drives inventors, passion drives artists. They will not cease to exist if multi-million-dollar corporations close down. Human society has developed far before large corporations existed. As long as societies exist, inventors and artists will exist. Creative output will never cease to flow, where else would human creativity be channeled if not to society?
Third, the movie, music and software industries will not eventually die, they will just be decentralized. Actors, musicians and programmers will not be extinct, they will just be decentralized. The playing field will just be leveled. Currently, large corporations hold monopoly over the avenues for success in the movie, music and software industries. Small-scale and independent actors cannot get a decent market’s share of patrons because of the resources of large corporations. If piracy degrades large corporations into medium ones, there will be social justice to small and independent competitors who will be free from the overpowering influence of large corporations over consumers.
The product of the amount of people and utility of allowing piracy outweighs the classic justifications why flow of intellectual property should be strictly regulated.
Theoretical arguments aside, the case of pirates vs. corporations is not a battle of intellectual property, it is a battle of pecuniary property. Who lures more consumers and ergo who profits the most. Traditional pirates of the old seas ransack sailboats for profit. Intellectual pirates are accused of ransacking the rightful owners of the fruits of intellectual properties. Arguments do not exist in a vacuum; they should be placed in a perspective. In the case intellectual pirates, their victims are large multi-million dollar corporations. Intellectual pirates steal from these corporations and sell their loot at cheap prices to the masses. This is comparable to traditional pirates of the old seas stealing from large warships of kings and selling their loot to the masses. The masses benefit largely. Kings and corporations suffer little. Legal theories aside, the issues are who profits and how much do the consumers spend. Either large corporations profit or many entrepreneurs profit; either the masses spend much or masses spend little.
If large corporations profit, a small fraction of their profit goes to wages and the rest are spent on buying luxurious office chairs and salaries of executives. If many entrepreneurs profit, they will eventually spend their profit back to the market of the masses.
If the masses spend much on expensive multimedia or software, they will only be able to purchase few products. If the masses spend little, entertainment from multimedia and productivity from software will increase because masses will be able to purchase many products.
Pirates “hook” from large corporations and enable masses, through cheap prices, to avail of multimedia and software. Corporations “crook” masses of a large fraction of their wealth by imposing prices ten times production costs. Otto Octavious, Peter Parker's ex-idol, said that intelligence should be used to benefit mankind; intellectual creations should be aimed at benefiting the masses, not economically burdening them.
The next article will discuss the state of the country with piracy vs. the would-be state of the country without piracy. I'm still thinking of what I'm missing in class right now.