I’m teaching in China now, which is an intellectual property free-for-all. My students are using photocopied textbooks, and bootleg DVDs are for sale everywhere – one of my colleagues found Men in Black 3 already, which is a little disturbing.
A few years ago, I attended a conference on investing in India, held at the University of Chicago. In one session, I asked the panel about protections for intellectual property, and some muckety-muck at some NGO told me that it simply wasn’t fair to deny the poor, downtrodden Indian people access to Hollywood entertainment.
Protecting intellectual property in India, it seemed, was almost like then imperialists stealing from the world’s most pathetic people! But, of course, my question stemmed from problems that a friend of mine had. She writes for the high-end glossy women’s magazines and found that her stories were being lifted by the Times of India. Yeah, the poor and downtrodden are buying the Times of India to get skin-care tips. (My friend complained and was paid.)
361o is a Chinese sporting goods company. I’ve seen references to it everywhere in the build-up to the Olympics. I’ve also seen a coffee shop called 85o (same typeface) and a women’s clothing store called 90o (same typeface). And that’s when I had my flash of insight: intellectual property will not be protected in China or India until China and India have intellectual property to protect.
That may happen soon; Apple just paid $60 million to settle a trademark dispute here. As someone who makes a living producing intellectual property, that gives me hope.