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Piracy In Asia – My Personal Viewpoint by Perlin Tan

A merchant ship with a crew of hardworking honest sailors has been sailing for months. The ship is 3 days from it’s destination, some of the crew will not last that long. Those who do arrive, will do so empty handed because Pirates have helped themselves to the merchant ship’s goods, and some to the crew’s lives.

Today the pirates have moved inland. They have traded in their ships and guns, for make shift factories, and traded in their crew for cheap labour. In the Information Age, pirates no longer steal goods. Instead they steal our most precious commodity, our ideas. They steal years of history and heritage, designs that have been laboured over by teams of the finest designers. Thus they kidnap the brainchild of brilliant innovators.

There are brands that made their name from years of consistently delivering top quality and designs in their products. Exclusively hand made products, so desired for their rarity and exceptional craftsmanship.

Million dollar advertisement campaigns have instilled in consumers an insatiable appetite for branded goods and hence when the appetite for the same arises, while there is a lack of means, piracy becomes the solution. Pirated goods ranging from software, fake apparel and merchandise have become an increasingly popular substitute for genuine goods.

Despite the lack of hard facts in proving the same, many would agree that the outbreak of piracy in the society has caused a negative effect in the society so much so that authorities have taken costly measures to curb such practices. However, how successful have the measures been?

Just as the seafaring pirates of the past were masters at evading port authorities, the ‘Idea Pirates’ of our day evade authorities by operating intricate networks. While the pawns of these networks are often caught, the ‘pirate kings’ remain elusive.

Despite the tough measures used to combat piracy, we are aware that to date there has not been a successful solution in putting an end to piracy due to its lucrative appeal. In fact piracy is more rampant in developing countries like Asia because the society at large supports pirated goods. Where there is a demand for the same, supply increases. Hence, while illegal traders thrive in their wrongdoings, the authorized dealers suffer from great losses in their business.

The Asian society, driven by materialism and cheap goods, does not realise the harm caused to the country’s economy. Someone once said “[B]uying a fake LV bag or CD would not crash an economy”. But imagine if everyone thought the same, wouldn’t the country’s economy be effected? In fact, many Asian countries have been reported to suffer from a loss of revenue due to piracy.

Malaysia suffered a huge blow when Microsoft decided to open offices in India instead of Malaysia. Billions of dollars are lost because of the country’s addiction to pirated software. Often consumers have a sense of victory from buying pirated goods. They feel they are ‘saving money’ or ‘stealing from the rich’. Genuine sellers lose out, and the entire video rental and music store business model is on the verge of extinction. The fight against piracy is not only against the pirates themselves, but also in the minds of consumers looking to save a few dollars while destroying industry in the long run.

There has been no doubt some recorded success in curbing piracy, but this seems to only happen in local settings. For example in Italy, owning an imitation bag is a serious offence; travelers have been stopped at airports and slapped with huge fines for strutting their ‘fake’ LV. In England, photocopying books is considered illegal so piracy is rarely adopted. In fact, you would not be able to purchase a fake DVD in Hollywood or Fake software in Silicon Valley.

While some countries are able to prevent piracy in their own region, some are not capable of doing so. Piracy arises once these genuine products are exported. Foreign enforcements are not given any incentive to crack down on products made by another country and this is where piracy thrives, and this is where any real effort to eradicate piracy must be targeted. Internationally. While the English and Italians can protect their books and leather bags at home, they have no control over photocopying shops or factories in Asian countries.

Innovators and great thinkers of our day, are faced with a crippling enemy in the form of piracy. Many industries cannot sustain themselves in the wake of rampant and unchecked piracy. And if these industries fall, so will the pirates. But why wait for such drastic self-correction to happen? With better protection by laws and authorities and aid from consumers, piracy can be contained or possibly abolished. Everyone has his or her part to play in this fight. What is yours?