Partners In Crime – Documentary Review

After my posts – Piracy is Mainstream and Why People Don’t Talk About Pirate Consumers – one of the readers of the blog recommended that I watch a documentary called Partners in Crime. I had heard about this documentary on Twitter but never got around to seeing it. I finally saw it last week and I am glad I did.

The documentary directed by Paromitra Vohra does a great job of asking a series of questions related to piracy but allows the viewers to draw their own conclusions. Some insights from the documentary:

  1. Many people don’t realize that piracy is illegal and they don’t believe they’re downloading for free because they pay for the internet connection and for membership to torrent sites (according to one interviewee – $10 for lifetime memberships for unlimited downloads). People also don’t view playing of music in public as illegal, since music is available for free in the first place.
  2. Some people feel that listening to music or watching movies is a social experience and sharing them only enhances the experience.
  3. Rare, concert recordings of masters are available in people’s private collections but cannot be released to public because of copyright issues. Record labels will not pay for these recordings and legal heirs of musicians are not willing to release these recordings for free.
  4. A lot of rare songs, specially non-film songs, are not archived or available easily to public.
  5. The business of pirated CDs and DVDs happens with the approval of the police. Cops need to get paid no matter what – it could be either to stop piracy or to allow it to happen.
  6. There is another way to look at roadside piracy – it provides livelihood to sellers and also gives cheap access to movies/music to a class of people who would not be able to afford them legally.
  7. It’s extremely difficult and/or expensive to legally license copyrighted work. Copyright owners are arrogant and unwilling to negotiate fair deals.
  8. Big companies copy/adapt folk songs to produce copyrighted songs. If they lifted the music in the first place, how can they own it? For example, how can Munni Badnam Hui be a copyrighted song when it is really just an adaptation of a folk song?
  9. Copyright owners are greedy and want supernormal profits. They stiff content creators by getting exclusive rights and paying content creators a pittance. As a result, content creators are either not motivated to produce original content or decide to self-publish.
  10. The anti-piracy crowd has it’s share of not-very-pleasant characters – a) The head of an NGO against piracy who talks about getting funding from CSR budgets of companies and compares piracy with illegal drug/gun trade. b) Companies that became big by flouting copyright rules in the first place, c) Big corporations who are capable of influencing governments to change laws in their favour. d) Bollywood film makers who have copied ideas from Hollywood.
  11. Intellectual Property Rights create barriers to content for people with disabilities. It’s very difficult to reproduce content in a format that can be accessed by people with disabilities.
  12. Copyright owners have no interest in catering to smaller, niche markets. This creates artificial shortage in supply, which in turn results in piracy.


2 thoughts on “Partners In Crime – Documentary Review

  1. ps

    Piracy has been around for a long time. Remember the times when one took ‘copies’ of books? How’s that any different at all? I am not sure which all of these I’d term piracy??? (and the concept is the same across books, paintings, music and even software)

    1. Someone singing a song in their school/college fest without the singer’s permission (most agree that’s not piracy as it’s not done for profit)
    2. A singer ‘inspired’ by another song that they heard somewhere, but which they dont recollect later (!!!)
    3. A small ‘dhun’ embedded inside a larger composition.
    4. Recording a song (on your iphone) at a musical event
    5. Recording/copying a song from your friend over to your digital collection (does sharing btw spouse/family make it legal?)
    6. A cheap ‘duplicate’ of the Mona Lisa hanging on a hook at home.

    Most of the above might not get dubbed under the piracy bracket. We – conveniently – assume that piracy is just the buying of songs/movies from the roadside vendor or downloading from torrents. The – not really perfect – logic that I’d go with is that if someone is not stealing to make a profit and if its for personal/friends and family entertainment – it should be ok.

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