Accountability versus Morality

    Piracy kills the incentive for creation and hence the economy.
    Dr Akash Khurana
    Dr Akash Khurana

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    Piracy kills the incentive for creation and hence the economy. We have to build an internal moral compass which is the Herculean task for the crusaders against piracy says Dr.Akash Khurana, vice chairman, Nimbus Communications Ltd

    In her inaugural address at FRAMES 2002, Sushma Swaraj, the then I&B Minister, admitted that the government’s efforts to contain piracy in music and films were yet to pay off to the desired extent.

    At FRAMES 2010, her most recent successor, Ambika Soni, said that the problem of piracy is afflicting the entertainment industry and we have to do much more besides changing the law, also indicating that digitisation is a major step in curbing piracy. Her views were complemented by the launch of an anti-piracy alliance between the Indian film industry and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to ensure Hollywood’s greater support in curtailing piracy of Indian movies abroad. It might appear that a decade of rhetoric has gone by in both, recognising the existence of a major industry threat, and suggesting possible remedies to quell the menace, but the numbers do indicate a decelerating effectiveness.

    Apart from syndicates that run the business of piracy (B2B/B2C), there are millions of people online at any given time around the world downloading filmed entertainment and music (C2C) since the Internet has become the main instrument for assimilation and dissemination of infotainment.

    The former can be tackled by: Containment, so that piracy does not spiral beyond all control; Effective prosecution and swift judicial process, because research has shown that the biggest fear a pirate has is going to jail.

    Unfortunately, this fear exists largely in the mind due to the negligible conviction rate. The problem is not with the law, but with enforcing it and Technological solutions, such as content fingerprinting. The latter needs a more pre-emptive approach: Education that everyone loses when piracy flourishes: Copyright laws provide incentives for creativity by attempting to secure the work of the author but attempts at law making for copyrights are still in their nascent stages. The dynamics of cyberspace are so volatile, that efforts by law-makers to help the situation are more likely to be reactionary than proactive. The only alternative would seem to be to make people understand in their formative years that though everything on the net is abundantly available for free, none of that can be taken for granted and stolen.

    Laws set guidelines for expected or prohibited behavior. Fear affects much of our culture. Fear of career derailment, public exposure, job security, all provide significant motivation to restrain our baser selves to conform to some set of moral rules. Both law and fear lead people to live at the edge of these boundaries, sometimes stepping over them or sometimes being overly scrupulous, not out of personal conviction of right and wrong, but out of self-preservation. Since fear and law are effective only in limited ways, personal convictions form the most effective basis for moral and ethical behavior.

    Personal convictions develop from family, community, education, religious or spiritual upbringing, and peer influence. All of these influences are in trouble. The family structure and its influence are breaking down. Yet, the family is the bedrock of moral teaching. Education has lost its moral punch. When I was a kid in school, the major problems of discipline were talking in class, running in the corridors, not being in uniform, and throwing litter. Now this list could include assault, vandalism, and drug abuse. We are living in a different world!

    There is also a growing degree of cynicism or sophistication if you like, in our society, that all things are relative and that nothing is absolutely right or wrong.

    Piracy kills the incentive for creation and hence the economy. Hence, considering the wide base of the users of the internet, the crusade against it should focus its efforts at the grassroots. There has to be a sustained effort by individuals and organisations that care for copyrights to reach out to the youth that is going to occupy cyberspace in the future.

    We need a moral compass and helping people build an internal moral compass is, to my mind, the Herculean task for the crusaders against piracy.

    Dr. Akash Khurana, vice chairman, Nimbus Communications Ltd is an Engineering Graduate from NIT Rourkela with an MBA from XLRI and an M.Phil. and Ph.D. from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

    Having directed and acted in many successful theatre productions, Swayam directed by Mahesh Bhatt marked his debut as a screenwriter. Khurana has won the Filmfare Award for Best Screenplay for the film Baazigar. On the Governing and Advisory Councils of the International School of Business & Media, the International Institute of Event Management, and Whistling Woods International Film Institute, Khurana has been a spokesman of the media and entertainment industry on several national forums like FICCI and CII.

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