I just read an article in TheStar about amending the Malaysian Copyright Act in order to nab the buyers as well as the sellers. According to the article, “Under the Copyright Act, it is wrong to sell a pirated DVD or VCD, but it is not wrong to purchase it. Both acts should be deemed wrong.”
Now, I have mixed feelings about this not because I buy pirated stuff, which I don’t, but because I think that the government is barking up the wrong tree in trying to arrest the rampant piracy in Malaysia. If it is difficult for the government to catch the sellers, it will be next to impossible for the government to catch the buyers since buyers necessarily outnumber sellers by several orders of magnitude.
Furthermore, this is a lame amendment if it is only limited to optical media such as CD, VCD, DVD and Bluray. In today’s world, most content is pirated (and I use the term very loosely here), through digital means such as downloads. If the law is amended to only catch people who buy the discs, then it will die a quick death once we move onto high-speed broadband in Malaysia.
However, if the law is amended to include digital downloads, which are not bought, then it again becomes difficult to handle. Most of these things are downloaded using torrents and due to the nature of torrents, it is difficult to identify buyers. The people downloading it are not buying anything because it is free, and they are not selling anything because it is free. Since I am not a lawyer, I am a little confused with this.
In the end, I think that this will be a lame duck amendment, which may actually weaken the Copyright Act if it is not done correctly.
If we want to really arrest the rampant piracy in Malaysia, we need stronger enforcement, that is all. If India – a country with more than a billion people – can do it, I do not see why we cannot do it. Personally, I think that arresting piracy will be good for the economy in a way because piracy can be considered an artificial substitute for the real thing. A free market cannot exist if there are pirated goods around.
Bias: If there are no pirated games in the market, the prices of original PS3 games would have to come down. Furthermore, Microsoft and Nintendo would have the incentive to sell their consoles in Malaysia, further driving down PS3 console prices.