Piracy As A Tool?

Piracy of just about anything is deeply rooted in modern India. We almost never want to pay full price. That means, we never want to pay taxes. Multiple reasons for this, surely. Despite understanding the fact that by buying stuff legally (with bill and warranty as it is referred to) that will help improve the overall fiscal state of the country, we often head to the streets looking for deals.

Seriously, when was the last time you were not tempted to buy a cell phone off the grey market? We often even have ‘contacts’ who will assuredly supply us with good stuff at unbelievable prices. Before I put forth my theory that piracy is indeed a self-defence mechanism or indeed a means to revolt, the question needs to be asked as to why it has come to this stage.

Sometime in the 1960s, most imported stuff was booted out of the country. ‘Swadesi’ was the call of the hour. Coca-Cola was out and Campa-Cola was in. ‘Imported’ became a bad word to the common man and the bootlegger (of all sorts) became the man to know! As the decades passed, this became a way of life. I remember in the 1980s (because that was the only real decade of pre-liberalisation that I have lived through), VCRs were quite the craze. We even managed to obtain a National (can’t remember the model) one that is till date functional. We got it for a whopping Rs 18,000 (considering prices of today’s all-in-one systems, we can perhaps get 2 such systems!) and was a prized possession. It was also universally accepted that it was “a great deal?. How it was obtained is something I am not too clear about, but an acquaintance of an acquaintance was surely involved.

Then came the turn of the software for this tool. Video cassettes. Since not too many movies were worth owning, the norm was to rent them for Rs 10 per day despite the legal warnings preceeding the censor certificate. Soon enough, this was an accepted practice and a way of life. How much money the manufacturers of such tapes have lost is vastly unknown but the fact that labels like Magnum (better known for their Mithun releases) and Bambino are no longer in circulation is perhaps testimony enough.

Eventually (about 4 years too late), the authorities (whoever that was) woke up to this and decided something had to be done about it. Because the whole damn thing had gone out of hand. Even the guy (casette ‘libraries’) who let out the movies was not always giving the original ones. He would make copies of it and circulate it. I personally know of two such librarians in Pune that made a fortune and now have bungalows on Prabhat Road!

Then came 1993 and liberalisation happened. Things were now available more freely (and perhaps somewhat cheaper too) but piracy did not end. Even today it flourishes. It has now encompassed cell phones, and all electronics, DVDs, CDs (libraries for these also exist and work pretty much along the same lines) and even computer software.

Which brings us to the point of this post.

 Maybe there is a reason we are not giving up piracy. Take Microsoft for example. Their omnipresent OSes are available at US prices even in India. Why the prices are not tailored for India is a question I have yet to get a satisfactory answer to. So perhaps by buying pirated stuff, it is our way to tell them to get their act together. The OS may never be available for Rs 150 (the way it is on Colaba Causeway), but hey, I’ll pay Rs 2,000 anyday compared to the current Rs 4,500 (and that for the starter edition).

Same applies to digicams, handycams, cell phones, and everything else you can think of. Maybe it is a way of telling the authorities that be to lower taxes and import duties. Because by having piracy so rampant, we have made all MNCs take notice and (somewhat) heed to our demands. The job is still half done.

Let me reassure all readers that I in no way support piracy and what I have written is merely a theory. A conspiracy theory perhaps, but a theory only. I will not lie and admit that I have succumbed to temptation but whenever possible (like all cell phones I owned and cameras) have been bought officially when I had the option of buying them half price.

Maybe there is a logical ‘end’ to this piracy. Maybe the consumer will win. Maybe.


  1. You’re right. But it’s not a conspiracy, merely the invisible hand.

  2. Piracy is about unauthorized duplication of goods (software / hardware). Buying an original Nokia phone in the grey market, in my opinion, might not constitute piracy.

    Secondly, everytime a person uses a pirated good, (s)he does an analysis of the pros and cons. If the possibility of being punished for using a pirated good is very low, then people will prefer going for the Rs. 150 pirated CD instead of the Rs. 1000 original MS Windows CD.


  3. as-94783-sa

    Yo, I like to eat @ Jimmy John\’;s!

  1. 1 DesiPundit » Piracy As A Tool?

    […] Is piracy ingrained in our psyche? On the other hand, economically speaking, can piracy be used as a tool? […]

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