Open letter to Kolaveri Di makers: How Dare You!

Posted by Nishant Shah at May 23, 2012 07:02 AM |
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When it comes to piracy, you are sure to have an opinion. You might either make a virtue out of it, talking about cultural commons and collaborative conditions of production. Or you might vilify it as the social fault-line that is destroying the very pillars of commerce and cultural negotiations.

This article by Nishant Shah was published in First Post on May 22, 2012.

No matter which part of the fault-line you fall under, this is the time for all good (and otherwise ambiguously identified) people to come to the aid of the party. This is an open call for anybody who has been on the interwebz, to share and distribute one particular object whose rights protector have recently taken your right to access countless platforms which are a part of your everyday life online.

If you haven’t yet grasped it, I am referring to the recent events where, following a John Doe order from the High Court of Chennai, all kinds of file sharing platforms are suddenly being blocked by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) across India.

The film producers of ‘3’, the movie whose claim to fame has been the spectacular viral success of the Kolaveri Di song, have moved the courts to issue a blanket order that has suddenly made it impossible for Indian netizens to access file sharing, user-generated-content hosting websites which allowed for digital cultural texts – from print to music to movies to presentations – to be shared and disseminated freely online.

The producers and those who support them, are glorying in this legal battle where they have identified nodes in our networks, through which their copyright information was potentially being pirated. They are hoping that by ensuring this lack of digital mobility for their film, they will be able to entice audiences to come into the theatres and spend their money ‘legitimately’ on the film.

They are revelling in the fact that hundreds of thousands of users have been thwarted in their attempts at copyright infringement. What they haven’t realised is that they have justified their box-office greed by infringing on your and my rights to perform everyday activities online.

I am sure there is going to be a smart-aleck riding a moral high horse, who will applaud this move and point out to me about the rights of the producers to protect their content. There are many who support this high-censorship which not only betrays the power of the Music And Film Industry Association (MAFIA, to friends) to curb us of our rights, but also the completely depraved technology apparatus of the State which seems to have no understanding of how the internet actually works.

However, i want to shift the focus from the rights of these victimised producers and right-holders to the right of the individual who is actually the structural unit of cyberspaces. And I want to suggest to you that these right-holders, who incidentally, have such global value only because the Kolaveri Di song put them on the global meme map, have now infringed upon my right to access my content which I had put out to share.

There are open content videos on Vimeo that we have produced through years of research and a huge amount of financial investment, which are now no longer available to people who want to view them.

There are powerpoint presentations and publications on file sharing sites, seeded through torrents, which are now impossible to access for people in India. A large amount of our personal research and lectures, which we have shared for educational purposes, are now not even available for us to download.

And we are not alone in this. Hundreds of thousands of individuals, who have shared openly licensed material, have now lost the ability to access that information because one private company wanted to make sure it made its profits.

I am not going to write a manifesto for the digital world, but I do want to put it out there, this new cultural MAFIA, grant to me my rights which their actions have violated. For every site that they have included in their banned list, they have disrespected the open, collaborative licenses that enabled sharing of information whose value, usage and worth is more than their commercial pot boiler, which shall hopefully be forgotten before we realise it was released in the markets.

Their commercially driven arrogance has suddenly demanded that we pay a price for the shared information, and that price should be to those who hold rights over the movie.

And so I am writing this open call, for you to come and demand your right. If that movie producer has the right to protect his interests, you and I have the right to protect ours. I demand that for every site that I am not able to access, for public domain information that I am entitled to, they pay us a penalty.

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