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‘Piracy is now a mainstream political phenomenon'

by Prasad Krishna last modified Apr 02, 2011 07:44 AM
“Piracy has become a mainstream political phenomenon,” said Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Centre for Internet and Society in the city. The piracy that he was referring to was not the piracy of the high seas but the piracy of intellectual property.

Mr. Abraham was speaking at the ‘Resource mela and meet of documentary centres' at the Centre for Education and Documentation (CED). The three-day mela ended on Sunday.

He argued that the process of documentation was a political matter. The theme of his talk was on the tussle between knowledge in the public domain versus its restriction by copyright. Mr. Abraham explained that documentation centres can have four positions vis-à-vis intellectual property restrictions.

The first position could be to agree with the existing law on intellectual property and defend the interests of those who own those rights.

A second position could be to acknowledge the usefulness of copyright laws while balancing it with the interests of the creator, entrepreneur, consumer and the general public. This balancing act is being further pushed by three important global campaigns — the right of persons with disabilities to read, the right of student communities to bypass certain copyright restrictions, and the necessities of archivists and librarians.

Moving to the other side of the spectrum, a third position that documentation centres can have is a ‘position of openness' by supporting only freely licensed intellectual property material. The extreme position that can be taken is to dismiss all the laws that exist around intellectual property and freely “pirate” knowledge.

‘No longer shameful'

Arguing from this position, Mr. Abraham said that it was no longer shameful to be known as a “pirate” today. “There are elected members of parties advocating piracy in certain European countries such as Sweden and even in the European Union.”

Mr. Abraham openly advised documentation centres not to greatly concern themselves with copyright issues in their work, as in India no two lawyers would agree on copyright laws while very few cases of copyright infringement actually came up in Indian courts.

He concluded his talk by indicating that there was no global model that could be applied to intellectual property rights “as there is no model that works for everyone everywhere”.

The resource mela was intended to be a multi-dimensional sharing centred around a national network of documentation centres called DCM. The programme was organised by Akshara, Aalochana and CED.

Read the original article in the Hindu

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