Monday, January 23, 2006

“Authorized Privacy"?

The recently concluded “Chennai book fair” conducted by the book sellers and publishers association of South India, which is an annual event has become a Mecca for book lovers in Chennai. The show this year was larger and more heavily patronized than ever. Having missed the last 3 years editions, I was eager to immerse my self in the sight and sounds of a book fair and indulge myself in a feast of books, to the detriment of my bank balance.

What surprised me this time was the huge hoard of used and “pirated” booksellers outside the book fair. One some days, this area was more crowded that the book fair itself! Agreed that there was always a presence of these “used books” sellers outside the book fair in the earlier editions but what took my breath away was the sheer variety of pirated books available. For instance, Thomas Friedman’s “World is flat” that I bought from Landmark for 700 odd rupees was available for 100 to 150 rupees!

Here is a sample of the pirated books I saw:

  1. Malcom Gladwell’s Blink and The tipping point.
  2. The complete selection of Edward de Bono’s books
  3. Peter Lynch’s One up on wall street and Beating the street
  4. Chetan Baghat’s One night @ the call center
  5. The Warren Buffett Way by Robert G Hagstrom
  6. The complete series of Harry Potter books
  7. Robin Sharma’s series of books

In brief, you name the book and it was there!!

Curious to know the reaction of the book fair authorities, I enquired at their office at the book fair premises. When I pointed out that pirated books were being sold outside and on being asked why they have not complained to the cops, I was shocked by their reply. They said that they were least bothered about this as the pirated books do not affect their sales and did not want to complain to the cops at all. Apparently they had a “live and let live” policy.

I fail to understand their logic. Here is the perfect example of piracy happening right under their noses and nothing was being done about it. No wonder the developed countries complain that India is not enforcing IPR laws. Can we imagine this kind of a situation in any of the developed countries?

What is required is a concerted effort by the authorities to eradicate piracy in India though I’m skeptical whether this will happen if even the victims of piracy are not willing to lift even a finger against it.