Brunei and the Irony of Intellectual Property Rights

I’ve been reading a few articles on the Brunei Times website about how the fight for intellectual property (IP) rights has finally come to Brunei’s shores. One article in particular mentions:

BRUNEI risks being placed in the US Trade Representative’s Priority Watch List of intellectual property (IP) rights violators if infringement continues unabated, the deputy public prosecutor said in his opening statement at the country’s first copyright case yesterday.

The prosecution pressed charges against Yong Teck Sang, the proprietor of WWW Video or “more popularly known as kedai komunis, the most popular pirate CD shop in Brunei” for allegedly selling pirated compact discs of Malaysian singer Siti Nurhaliza.

To be fair, kedai komunis is perhaps the worst offender of rampant piracy in the country. I don’t buy fake CDs or DVDs myself, but download much of what I want. Granted, I’m essentially still committing piracy, except I’m not paying the komunis pirates for stuff I can get myself. However, not everyone has the ability or tech-savvy to download whatever they want and often resort to komunis or any of the other many many shops selling pirated stuff. So piracy is very much alive and well in Brunei, whether commercially or individually.

But here’s the ironic part — in the US itself, there are many people and groups who are opposed to the whole PROTECT IP act. And these groups aren’t all just a bunch of pirates and consumers who want free stuff. They’re people who understand the industry and the reality of piracy but feel that the IP act is going about it the wrong way. And recently, a bunch of law professors (90 of them so far) joined in and signed a letter opposing the IP act. Here’s an excerpt:

Although the problems the Act attempts to address — online copyright and trademark infringement — are serious ones presenting new and difficult enforcement challenges, the approach taken in the Act has grave constitutional infirmities, potentially dangerous consequences for the stability and security of the Internet’s addressing system, and will undermine United States foreign policy and strong support of free expression on the Internet around the world.

If respected law professors see the problems inherent in the Act, I’m pretty sure that says something about the whole situation. Mike Masnick from Tech Dirt agrees:

Indeed. One would hope that politicians would start paying attention. Already, we’ve seen technologists, some of the top funders of innovation and some of the biggest names in the news business come out against the bill. Who’s actually supporting it? So far, just a coalition of businesses who seek to block competition and get increased gov’t protection to try to cover for their own failures to innovate and adapt.

So, let’s not jump on the IP bandwagon all at once. But overall, I guess the conclusion is that although the IP act may have its own problems, we shouldn’t be so quick to smile and go “HAH!” triumphantly. Piracy is still wrong and we should definitely stop promoting (and committing) it. We all know we should, but it isn’t always easy when it’s so easy.

Now excuse me while I check if my movie has finished downloading.

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