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Increase Innovation in Trinidad by Cracking Down on Piracy

Posted by on 12/07/2011

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While supporting the “small man trying to make a living” and the average working Joe having the benefit of seeing the latest DVD movie or Music albums for a fraction of the cost  and attaining expensive Computer Software for free, we stifle Innovation.

Copyright is one of the two categories of intellectual property. Intellectual property by definition is expressed creations of the mind. It is divided into two categories:

  1. Industrial Property – which would consist of inventions, industrial designs, lay-out designs, company names, etc.
  2. Copyright – which you be more familiar with consists of computer software, books, poems, films, musics, etc

Like most developing countries Trinidad and Tobago hasn’t shown much focus on enforcing its copyright laws.The laws are there , according to section 41 of the Copyright Act 1997, ‘ any person who commits an act of copyright infringement is liable on summary conviction to a fine of One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000.00) and to imprisonment for ten years’ but this is not enforced.

If you were to take  a walk around your closest urban area you are most likely going to find the sidewalks decorated by various shelves of copied versions of the latest DVD movies and even some movies that just hit the silver screen for $10- $15.  You will also find various carts equipped with speakers playing the latest mainstream music  selling them for $10 – $30  depending on the quality.  Computer software would not be as prominent on the shelves but  most of the licenses on products in homes such as Microsoft Office, Windows 7 and various anti-virus are cracked and hacked.

Research has shown that piracy in a third world country can have negative effect since most software, music and movie franchises belong to the US and European countries. Enforcing piracy laws would mean that more money would leave the country and cause the value of the local dollar to decrease. Additionally there is argument that clamping down on piracy of software would mean that citizens would be less exposed to various computer software and this may actually deter possible innovation by use of these available products.

Now that’s one way to look at it, but what happens when these citizens are exposed to the various movies, music and computer software and they begin to spark brilliant ideas? Do they go on an international scale? What if their products are more designed for local population? There is no profitable local market and since they themselves own pirated goods, they would rationale that it would just not be worth the time and effort since if they do invest the time and money their product would just end up on the sidewalk being sold for $5 with no share of profit to its creator.

Countless local musical artists with great talent and popularity are left to struggle with concerts and appearances in ads since their record sales wont be enough for sustainability. Some have run to online sales such as iTunes etc but their main audience would be locals who can get the copied edition from the carts on the sidewalk.

The same goes for the large number of brilliant students majoring in programming and software engineering, they are doomed to struggle amongst each other for positions in various international software development companies with branches in Trinidad or maybe a job as a Database Administrator instead of applying all their knowledge and unlocking their potential  by creating innovative systems and applications for citizens  or even original software inventions that could put Trinidad on the map.

We can look at the case of India, a country stricken with poverty that began to focus heavily on Intellectual Property Rights. India’s government decided a long time ago to focus on the market of software development and encouraging its citizens to be innovative in the field of IT. They acknowledge that for this to be possible they would have to create and enforce the laws of Intellectual Property. India is currently one of the major suppliers of outsourced IT services.

Although our country is economically classed as a third world country, I believe that we are populated by some brilliant and talented minds . We shouldn’t encourage them to go to the US and carry their innovative minds  with them, we need to facilitate their growth by enforcing the laws that would encourage them to step forward and take the country to the next level.

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