Audiovisual Piracy, Informal Economy, and Cultural Globalization (1-3)
This article written by Tristan Mattelart of University of Paris for the International Journal of Communication and which puts into perspective the results of a collective research University of Paris project carried out in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Ivory Coast, South Korea, Colombia, Bulgaria, and Russia. It analyzes the nature of the more or less informal networks through which pirated audiovisual products circulate, the modes through which they are appropriated, and the changes occurring with the rise of Internet.
This constellation of key players—the U.S. government, global communications companies, multilateral organizations—constitutes, to use Gomez-Mejia’s ex
Studying local repercussions of global strategies against piracy, Gomez-Mejia explains how the placing of Colombia on the priority watch list of the IIPA in 2006, at a moment when this country was negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States, functioned as a “political injunction” that guided national policies against piracy. As a result, the domestic measures taken to fight audiovisual piracy have been motivated less by the need to take into account the local “socioeconomic dimensions of this phenomenon” than by the need to conform to “international expectations”.
In doing so, the Colombian government endorses the priorities of both public and private American agencies “and excludes the possibility of discussing other priorities (in particular in the cultural field) that could emerge from local debates on piracy” (ibid., p. 214). How could a constructive discussion on the issue of piracy as a means to have access to cultural products take place under the sword of Damocles of the priority watch lists of the IIPA or the USTR? After all, in how many small Colombian 744 Tristan Mattelart towns, in the absence of legal distribution networks, are pirated circuits the only means to access cultural goods?
Most of the other investigations carried out within the framework of our collective project also consider the domestic policies implemented by the countries of the South or the East to combat or deal with piracy. From one country to another, the same heavily publicized police operations are conducted, aimed at convincing both global agencies and local publics of domestic authorities’ ability to solve the problem.
Nevertheless, the ambiguities of these domestic policies must be underlined. Indeed, “the intimate involvement of the networks of the informal economy with the social, political and economic fabric” of the surveyed countries “obliges many governments to be extremely cautious” in applying their policies against piracy. They are all the more cautious in their dealings with the informal economy of communication, as it constitutes for them, as explains Chéneau-Loquay, a non-negligible “means of ensuring social peace: It gives employment to young people, produces value, and satisfies popular demands”.
In this perspective, Kiriya describes what he characterizes as the “dual policy” pursued since the second half of the 1990s by the Russian state against the commerce of pirated audiovisual products: On the one hand, it implements “spectacular punitive actions to satisfy its ‘foreign partners,’” but on the other, “being conscious of the important role piracy plays in giving its population access to cultural goods,” it tolerates some pirate markets, provided they remain relatively invisible.
Similarly, the Moroccan government faces, according to Benchenna, a “dual problem.” It needs to struggle efficiently against piracy in order to cope with the demands of both the U.S. government and multilateral organizations, but it needs, at the same time, to “find solutions to the unemployment of young people and to find a way to facilitate the access of its population to cultural goods.” In this context, the state seeks to make “the most visible symptoms” of piracy disappear from public places, without being able to tackle the problem head on.
Of course, it should not be assumed that domestic policies against piracy are only the outcome of transnational pressures. In Morocco, the key players of the domestic movie industry have repeatedly denounced the phenomenon, emphasizing the “loss of income” it represents, and criticizing government’s.
Ferjani goes further in analyzing the ambiguities of domestic policies against piracy: He shows that the Tunisian government has struggled against a phenomenon to which it has, itself, contributed. He highlights the way in which, following the TRIPS agreement, national legislation has aligned itself with “the dominant international model.” However, much of the “actions of [Tunisian] public bodies” appear contradictory with these regulations.
By Alula Berhe Kidani, E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org, 10/08/2012