By Vince Ragay
Once upon a time, seafaring marauders plied the high seas terrorizing ships and looting villages of their wealth and sometimes of their womenfolk. In recent times, doctors practiced lobotomy on psychotic criminals which effectively robbed them of their mental and emotional intelligence.
Today, pirates and mind-suckers exist in the persons of illegal optical media producers. Before movies premier in local theaters, the masses would have had seen them in their homes via those low-byte, skip-full pirated versions openly available on sidewalks and – as we all know – in malls. In so doing, these traders end up stealing profits that should have gone to the original makers of those films.
Thus, while the pirates get drunk from their bloodstained loot, some producers have to find ways to pay their sponsors. If this does not kill the film industry, we don’t know what else does.
As before, the nemeses of pirates have been busy raiding the dens of Captain Blackbeard’s heirs and hauling off crates and crates of their bootleg merchandise for burning and, lately, for crunching. Did you notice that just like in those shabu lab raids, not one of the masterminds has been jailed? They must be the same ghosts who sail the Caribbean seas because nobody has ever seen them. We all see on TV the seemingly sincere efforts to arrest this modern take on maritime piracy but we can’t seem to see the end of this raging war. What keeps it going?
In those times of wooden-legs and leather eye-patches, captured pirates and mutineers were punished by letting them walk the plank . I used to think it was as simple as forcing a man to jump off the side of a ship into shark-infested oceans or, at least, to be abandoned until they drowned. But walking the plank had a more macabre form which was to tie a mutineer by his legs and pushing him off the prow of the ship. If he survived he was pardoned. But rarely did anyone survive the impact of the onrushing ship’s barnacle-encrusted keel and the sharp edges of the rudder. Anyway, anyone who survived bore enough humiliation that would have destroyed his desire to live among a ruthless bunch of rogues.
But these days, pirates have gained not only the temerity and greed of cold-blooded crocodiles but have also managed to take control of our society’s political and military systems that they rarely live as outcasts in dark caves far from civilization but in posh subdivisions. They prey upon the natural desire of the masses to have cheap entertainment because we as a people have not really upgraded our moral and artistic standards beyond judicious levels and above purely utilitarian goals.
Certainly, there must be some more creative ways to solve this problem other than letting pirates walk the plank.
To further strengthen the film industry and to preserve its prestige as a source of valuable recreation and meaningful education, it is indispensable to raise our people’s awareness of the importance of intellectual property and the need to eliminate piracy.
Psychologically speaking, piracy is a form of rebellion. A good friend refers to it as an expression of the “outrage of the masses” who cannot afford the exorbitant tag prices on commodities, least of all original DVDs. They buy because they can . But how is it possible for a person to make a near perfect copy of the original DVD for only P40 and not P600 or P800? Who are the pirates here? Like Robin Hood, some pirates help the poor because they see some form of injustice in our economic system.
As a final shot, movies must have shorter copyright lives, say 20 or 25 years. Copyrights only last for 50 years after which creative work enter into the public domain, meaning to say the creator loses his or her economic (not intellectual) rights over the work or at least reproductions of it. As such, anyone who copies and sells them may not be prosecuted. This is what public domain means. We have pirates because there are buyers. Where there is a treasure of gold, there will always be pirates. And where there are pirates there will also be sharks. Killers come in various forms.