Saturday, January 12, 2008

Institutionalized piracy

Southeast Asia is a place where you can "get things." One of these things is pirated movies and software. We found an entire mini-mall in Chiang Mai pretty much dedicated to pirated goods. In fact, there are several malls there like this:
You can walk the aisles of these stores and get expensive software packages for an average of about 100 baht each:

Have you downloaded a trial version of software that expired? Don't worry, these gurus will make it work permanently for a very low price. Do you have an illegal copy of Windows? Yes, that's right, there is "Windows Legitimizer" available for a small fee.

You can purchase a CD of music for about 10 baht (US 30 cents) and 7 baht per CD in quantity. There are huge English and Thai language printouts which list virtually any music you could want and from these books you can assemble a portfolio of music to be burned on CDs. Any movie you can think of is a bargain on DVD. Whatever they don't have will be prepared for you by tomorrow.

Felling guilty yet? Don't worry, even the monks are doing it ;-)

Of course, trademarks are not protected as well here, either. This one is from Malaysia:

But this image from Bangkok shows that even McDonald's is changing a little with the times:
Dispensing with the humor, this really is bad for Thailand's economy in the long run. It reduces their chances to participate in the information revolution. And there is not much legitimate stuff for sale here -- it is not even available. So Thailand's appeal as a target market for movies, music, and software is vastly reduced.

It reminds me of this exchange from the Shawshank Redemption, a movie about a man who was incarcerated after being falsely accused of killing his wife and her lover. In this exchange, two prisoners discuss a much older prisoner who has spent so much time there that he would not be able to survive in the real world:

RED: Heywood, enough. Ain't nothing wrong with Brooksie. He's just institutionalized, that's all.

HEYWOOD: Institutionalized, my ass.

RED: Man's been here fifty years. This place is all he knows. In here, he's an important man, an educated man. A librarian. Out there, he's nothing but a used-up old con with arthritis in both hands. Couldn't even get a library card if he applied. You see what I'm saying?

FLOYD: Red, I do believe you're talking out of your ass.

RED: Believe what you want. These walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. After long enough, you get so you depend on 'em. That's "institutionalized."

JIGGER: Shit. I could never get that way.

ERNIE: Say that when you been inside as long as Brooks has.

Thailand is completely dependent on piracy to supply movies, music, and software to consumers -- it has become legitimized and institutionalized -- and that dependency will hurt it in the long run.

I am in Bangkok now. Here on Khao San Road I can get a diploma from any university I want, a press pass, a student ID, a Driver's License, etc. Hmmm, I am thinking that a press pass and a student ID for hostel discounts (Professor Travis) might just do the trick for me . . .


Contractor said...

Very true...the notebok I'm typing on now came from Pattaya not long ago and was about half the price of the US version of a no-OS box. But they took a few hours and cloned the HDD from another image they had handy complete with every major program known on the market including AV's. Theres a ton of programs in here that I still dont understand and seem geared towards hacking.

And get all passes the microsoft genuine whatever test even though its a mesh of Vista and XP SP3.

$1,300 CS3 program? no probs..only 200 baht.

They had this 5-story electronics mall up the road from walking street that had to be the largest open-air black market I have ever seen.

Hamster said...

Here's the biggest joke:
"The chief of the Intellectual Property Department said on Saturday she feels Thailand has "sufficiently suppressed" street piracy and hopes Washington will upgrade Thailand off the intellectual property priority watch list this year.

Puangrat Aswapisit, director-general, said her department is preparing information to submit to Washington on Thailand's suppression of piracy during 2007."

No one I know in Thailand buys legitimate programs...that goes from businesses to individuals.
The reason: "Too expensive"

Everyone I know buys pirated software. That's the way it has always been in Thailand.

Whole shopping malls are devoted to the the trade.

You walk in, pick out the pirated software you want from their list of covers, pay your money and they tell you to come back in 15 minutes. They send someone out to get the actual disk. You return and they give you the disk.
They never keep the disks where they can get confiscated.