Wednesday, March 13, 2013

avast, pirates!

Yu Hua gets it right in his New York Times Op-Ed in praise of piracy:
In the West, piracy is a matter of intellectual property — copyright, patents and trademarks — but in China, the issue is not just legal, but social.
Why are fake goods everywhere? ... [Because] businesses producing pirated and knockoff goods have intricate connections to local governments and officials. These enterprises are, plainly, major sources of tax revenue; less visibly, some officials have an economic stake in them.
But the most basic reason, in my view, is the huge demand for pirated and knockoff products. After more than 30 years of rapid economic development that made China the world’s second largest economy, there are still more than 100 million Chinese, mostly peasants, who make less than $1 a day.
Years ago, in a talk at a university, I said: “I am opposed to counterfeiting in all forms, but so long as poverty is a huge problem in China, I think it’s only proper that my books be pirated. I make enough to support my family from the regular sales of my books.” Some of my fellow writers disagree, but I still believe it.
This is similar to the situation in Peru that Daniel Alarcón chronicled in Granta a few years back, when he desperately searched for a copy of his own book in the counterfeit market. At the publisher's price, a single book would costs perhaps 20 percent of the average workers' weekly salary. So it is only logical that, as Alarcón reported, "being pirated is the Peruvian equivalent of making the bestseller list." Of course, when he finally found his own volume--looking shorter, wider, thinner, and less substantial than the original--he haggled and forced the seller to bring the price down.

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