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Mixed Media: The media’s double standards… where copyright is the right to copy

15-December-2009
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Mixed Media: The media’s double standards… where copyright is the right to copy

There’s been a fair bit reported on copyright issues in the recent past and how several media companies are aghast by the Government’s proposed Amendments to the Copyright Act, 1957. The charge put forth by many broadcasters is that they were not consulted about the proposals and how the “draconian” changes could bring in much misery to small players, especially non-metro FM radio stations.

For any policy to be a success, it’s vital that all stakeholders are consulted and satisfied with the decision. It’s also important that copyright-owners price their product appropriately for the trade. Clearly, a radio station in a Tier III city cannot afford to pay the same royalty as that in a metro.

But when seen in the backdrop of a sector that is known to interpret copyright as the right to copy, you wonder whether sections of the Indian media deserve any special treatment at all. Our double standards on intellectual property exist for every one to see.

From the tools used for keying in content (like Microsoft Word) to high-end software, a large section of the Indian media is known to use illegal stuff. The computer industry is partly to blame for overpricing wares, but now that rates have been brought down for operating systems and everyday home/ office utilities, it’s time people complied. Many companies do use legal software, but there are a reasonable number who cheat.

The malaise afflicts us all. Pirated movies, books and music… we patronise them because the price of the original is steep. However, as professionals working in the media, we must realise that piracy is theft and indulging in it implies robbing original owners/ authors/ performers (like us) of their due. The print and online media, for instance, is known to publish text and pictures picked up from the Internet without paying for it.

Is there a solution for this? When bestselling writer Chetan Bhagat tweeted on this issue last week (and got into an avoidable storm for blocking a ‘follower’ who was taking his case), my response to him was that it’s important that individuals like him rally together likeminded pros and get law-enforcers to wield the stick.

The Mumbai police successfully checked drunken driving by arresting the hip set and publicising their names. Perhaps the same should be applied to piracy, after sufficient warnings of course. So: make an announcement that strict action will be taken against offenders after three/ six months and hope that people turn legit in the period. In the meantime, copyright owners and authors should be encouraged to tag their wares attractively and encourage those willing to embrace legal content.

As for the copyright tangle, let’s hope there’s an amicable settlement on the issue. Rather than fight each other, it’s critical that they maximise returns for themselves.

(The views expressed here are personal. Post your comments below or email them at mixedmedia@exchange4media.com. This article has been written on legal Microsoft Word and with a legal Windows Vista. Although I paid 10k for it, I’m glad I did it.)

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