Are We HIP Yet?


Despite Singapore’s HIP Alliance million-dollar campaign to educate locals on the importance of honouring intellectual property, many feel the message doesn’t seem to be hitting home.


Piracy in Singapore

According to the Recording Industry Association of Singapore (RIAS), pirate sales hit S$7 million in 2002. This figure excludes losses from illegal downloading. Recent figures have been escalating at such an alarming rate that even the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is stepping in. They have been distributed anti-piracy brochures to every school and library here in Singapore. It is good that they are trying to cultivate anti-piracy habits from young. News reports show intellectual law violators who have been caught, they tend to be teenagers or youths.

Who cares about anti-piracy issues? It’s little wonder that the anti-piracy situation here is not looking up. A dipstick survey revealed that many teenagers do not realise, or simply choose to ignore, the consequences of their actions. Others have fixed mindsets and do not understand why they have to pay. Some even conjure reasons to justify their illegal downloading.

Take for example this extract from an on-line posting in response to MPAA’s anti-piracy brochures. “Who gives a flying f*ck how much money those fat sons of bitches lose? They’re already making ten times the alleged loss. I’ll bet you my soul that 99.997% of the brochure is full of lies.”

This person does not recognise that his actions infringe copyright law and put him at risk of being prosecuted. Instead, he demonstrates disrespect and a lack of concern for all those who have slogged to produce the songs and movies that he happily downloads for free. To top it off, he attempts to justify his actions by citing that the entertainment industry is making billions and these small losses mean peanuts to them. But haven’t we learnt from the Durai case that ‘peanuts’ can be significant?

It is not a matter of how much it will cost the industry but a question of whether we should even be doing it in the first place? If everyone thinks that the entertainment industry is too wealthy to feel the pinch and rips them off, the industry definitely suffers and is forced to reduce the number of productions it makes, as well as overall budgets and quality. Consumers, both paying and non-paying, will then complain. Just look at the case of Hong Kong, where the volume of films and good scripts has dipped sharply as a result of piracy.

Investors have started to think twice before financing costly productions. There were so many film pirates recording cinema shows during the wee hours that these midnight shows were cancelled for some time.

Who is actually causing this vicious cycle and who can stop it? The answer’s obvious, for various reasons; namely the human tendency to put yourself before others, narrow-mindedness and budget-consciousness, we may choose not to answer the pleas of industry.

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Impact of Piracy

Locally, we’ve witnessed music retail giants Tower Records falling, HMV downsizing and other smaller players barely making it. With the onslaught of peer-to-peer software, bit torrent sites, video-streaming sites like You Tube – where an eye-popping 100 million videos are watched daily – how can these retailers, distributors and entertainment companies stay afloat? That is the problem addressed at Music Matters Asia-Pacific Music Forum in Hong Kong from May 29 – 3. All the big boys, like Sony BMG, Nokia and Sun Microsystem, will convene to discuss the issue.

What can we do?

1) Music Dispensers: Instead of vending machines selling the drinks and snacks that make us fat. Fancy music dispensers could be installed at prominent places like bus stops with high traffic volume, bus terminals and MRT Interchange Stations. Many like to listen to music while commuting but might not have the time or have forgotten to load new tracks into their players. This machine would provide fast and convenient access to an extensive library of tunes whilst you wait for friends, buses or trains. Users can test listen and only pay for what they download.

2) Music cafes: In cool cafes touch screens are placed on each table. They perform the same function as the music dispensers. Friends can gather over food and drinks to check out the latest music releases. Perhaps you could even buy ahead of CD releases, cutting out the cost and time involved in shipping. You’d be able to edit downloads into ring tones for a small additional fee. Snapshots, mobile phone themes, wallpapers and the like could also be made available.

3) Field trips and compulsory video: Schools can arrange to visit local broadcasters who will explain the tedious production process, of a drama serial for example. Students would be treated to a video screening starring their favourite celebrities to further illustrate the issues. The aim would be to help students understand how much time, effort and money goes in to a production. Ensuring they then understand why intellectual property should be protected, not pirated.

4) Ripping exercise: Teachers could assign students tedious projects and then secretly arrange for other students to claim credit for the work. Through this practical exercise, the “exploited” students would learn to empathise with the industry folks whose creations have been pirated.

5) Promote Legal Download Sites: We have legal download sites like Soundbuzz and Play (by Starhub) which urgently require more aggressive marketing. Lowering the cost would be helpful as the current rate of S$1.99 per song could be too steep, especially for students.