India’s copyright proposals are un-American (and that’s bad). India has long been one of the few countries on the US Special 301 “Priority Watch List” (PDF) as one of the world’s top offenders when it comes to piracy and copyright infringement. While the inclusion of Canada (yes, Canada) on this list has always seem patently bizarre to us, the case for India is more easily made.
Here’s how bad it is: “The piracy rate for music in the online space is estimated at 99%… India was among the top 10 countries in the world for illegal filesharing (P2P) activities… In one case, pamphlets were being distributed with the morning newspaper offering pirated software and referring readers to the website www.cd75dvd150.20m.com to place orders… It is estimated that India’s cable companies declare only 20% of their subscribers and that the piracy level in this market is at 80% with significant losses… The sale of high-risk trade books at traffic junctions in New Delhi appears to be a lesson; last year it was at epidemic proportions.” [Ars Technica]
Clearly the cultural approach to works of art is different in India than it is in the United States. In the United States, copyright law exists “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” What this means in concrete terms is that US copyright law is bought and paid for in its entirety by a very large corporation to ensure that a man who died in 1966 is motivated to continue working.
We can tell how successful those US copyright laws have been at fulfilling their stated purpose by the fact that India has been producing more films per year than the US since the 1970s.