My latest SFChron column: Asia is the place where copyrights go to die. Is it the future of the global media landscape?
Barack Obama says: Buy the Blockberry 9500! (image: Shanzai.com)
It's Asian Pop time again, and this week, I'm looking at the factors that have turned Asia into a pirate's paradise, and why these forces make the idea of a global enforcement-based response to copyright violation a total nonstarter.
That's not preventing the world's biggest content-creating regions from trying to implement one, however.
Last week, the anonymous "total transparency" site Wikileaks unveiled a cache of classified memos revealing the top-secret terms of a proposed international treaty, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, currently being negotiated behind closed doors by the U.S., the E.U., Japan, Korea, Australia, Canada, and other major economies (though notably the world's primary emerging markets -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- are not participating).
"The leaks confirm everything that we feared about the secret ACTA negotiations," wrote Gwen Hinze of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a grim post on the advocacy organization's "Deeplinks" blog. Or, as author and Boing Boing blogger Cory Doctorow put it even more pithily: "It's bad. Very bad."
- Internet providers in signatory markets would be required to actively police their users or face the threat of massive liability.
- Any allegedly copyrighted content would need to be removed on demand, even without proof of infringement.
- Even casual violators would face the threat of losing Internet access and, ultimately, criminal charges.
- And service providers, customs agents and law enforcement officials would be empowered to search private accounts and personal devices -- laptops, MP3 players and even cellphones -- for illicit content, all without the need for warrants or probable cause.
But in Asia, where intellectual property is an alien concept and piracy and counterfeiting is essentially the norm, a harsh, enforcement-driven response to IP concerns seems wildly impractical -- and destructive to the evolution of potential new business models that might protect artists and creators while engaging consumers as collaborators and evangelists, as opposed to stigmatizing them as potential criminals.
Much more here (this week's column is an epic 3000 words long!) Not only did I get the chance to explore some of the strangest products of China's counterfeit culture (the Blockberry 9500, endorsed by Barack Obama!), I also got the chance to talk to some really insightful and innovative individuals, from Brian Lam, editor in chief of top techblog Gizmodo, to DramaFever founders Seung Bak and Suk Park, to CrunchyRoll CEO Kun Gao, to old friends Kai-Ming Cha (manga editor at Publishers Weekly) and Fred Schodt (manga scholar and author of Dreamland Japan and Manga! Manga!). Read on!