Friday, October 8, 2010

Flawed Policies and Laws: Human Psychology Factor Missing In Account Like The Proposed Copyright Act Amendment

KUALA LUMPUR: Buyers of pirated DVDs and VCDs will be fined five times the price of the genuine products once the Copyright Act is amended.

Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (Ayah Dafi) said the ministry was hoping to table the proposal for first reading in Parliament, in the coming sitting beginning next week.

"Currently, the Act only allows us to take action against pirated DVD sellers but not those who buy these products.

"We hope that with the amendment to the Act, we will be able to curb the piracy issue in the country," he told reporters after attending the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia Hari Raya open house here Thursday.

On how the ministry would carry the enforcement once the Act was amended and whether house-to-house raids would be conducted, Ismail Sabri said the details were being planned.

He said the ministry would also work with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to stop illegal downloading from the Internet.

"We will work with MCMC to see if we can bar those involved in illegal downloading from accessing the Internet," he said.

Ismail Sabri said another amendment of the Copyright Act would also involve the collection of royalty.
"The Act will be amended to make it compulsory for all companies which collect royalty payments to register with our ministry.

"There must also be an agreement between these companies and the artistes involved to allow the former to collect the royalty," he said.

He said other intellectual property related laws like the Industrial Design Act, Patent Act and Trademark Act were also scheduled to be tabled for first reading in the coming Parliament sitting.

In April, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had said the amendments would not only tighten the enforcement of intellectual property rights but also protect small and medium enterpreneurs as well as the creative and entertainment industry. - The Star (7 October 2010)

Note: In this article, I will refer Sabri Yaakob as Ayah Dafi since Dafi is his son who won AF5 reality show

I have seen a few articles on how the Malaysian authorities would use hard-man, hard fist style tactics like that above to combat problems in the country.The article above is an example of how a hard-fist approach is used to deal with the problem that is besetting Malaysia. After a while if you seat down and think hard on this situation, you would realize that it is virtually impossible to combat such crime. Some people would come to realize that such approach and policy to be implemented is deeply flawed because there is one key factor that is missing in the writing of law: human psychology.

Failure to Understand Human Psyche

It is very essential to understand the human psyche and the reason of them acting when dealing those problems. In this case of the piracy problem, there was a lack of viewing from the perspective of the person who would be buying a product labeled "pirated" by authorities and the entertainment industry. In this case, Malaysia is not a high-income country yet. Poverty rate is still above the actual norm lines. Some people don't like censorship. Some people could afford even RM50 to buy a movie title or music CD (genuine) from shops. Video shops might not have that title they are looking for and so forth.

We can go through one or two examples to illustrate why human psychology factor was missing in the approaches of solving problems in this country. For example:

1. Why are there phone booth vandalism?
Answer: Some people who are poor who wants to dig up coins to buy food to feed their hunger. Money collectors don't come routinely and on time to collect the money in the box, instead it is left to go overflow.

2. What is the genesis of a mat rempit?
Answer: Youngsters who have motorbikes who have the desire and the yearning to be free from the shackles of controls of old paranoid men and parents who do not understand them at all. These young men, are not rich people, and mostly they are not able to afford money to buy even a single car due high protectionism amount included into the final cost of car sold in Malaysia. If they can't get a car, motorcycle would be the next best thing of mode of transport. The national economy state also forms part of the genesis. If they do not buy motorcycles, sales from manufacturers of motorcycles would be abysmal. A weak public transport system also forms part of the reason and in fact forms the biggest reason such existence. Lack of public transport planning in both city and rural areas tends to frustrate many people in as a resort.

Many come from poor environments. Not the kind of comfort houses, but hut style houses (e.g Pantai Dalam) , getting out from stuffy environments, lacking the chance to compete in real proper motorcycling races. Or perhaps from jobs that don't give them much income - that's the problem of not having minimum salary clauses.

Therefore, it is wrong for the police and the IGP to say that all mat rempits are violent and behave like gangsters. This means, you cannot simply do a hard-fist action on them at all times hoping that will solve the problem. No, it is a 50-50 likelihood that starting a hard-fist action can make them do it again and again that will disregard the law at all. Notice that from their point of view and feelings, that they do not take kindly into police as like parents putting a brakes into something that they are in the middle of doing something.

If there is a better way to solve the problem, Hishamuddin Rais proposed this: (and Subramaniam the Human Resources Minister has to do it immediately, no excuses!)

Apakah betul kerajaan ada keinginan untuk memperbaiki hidup mereka?

Jika jujur dan berniat baik maka : Susun dan tubuhkan kesatuan pekerja di semua pasar raya. Tubuhkan kesatuan sekerja untuk semua pekerja di Seven Eleven, di Giant, di Tesco , di MacDogal, di Burger King, di warong-warong Rehat Lebuh Raya Utara Selatan. Pastikan mereka yang memburuh ini bukan hanya menjadi kuli batak untuk pemodal antarabangsa. Pastikan anak anak muda yang merempit ini dibayar selumayan mungkin. Pastikan mereka tidak ditindas dengan gaji yang kecil. Wujudkan gaji minama untuk seluruh buruh pekerja.

Ini baru langkah tepat yang mendahulukan warga. Bukan mendahulukan keuntungan untuk pemodal.

Jangan hanya pandai menghina anak anak muda yang merempit sebagai wabak. Mereka bukan penyakit. Mereka adalah sebahagian dari kita. Mereka adalah anak semua bangsa. Jangan hanya pandai mengutuk dan menangkap.

Coming back to the Copyright Act amendment, it is virtually impossible to eradicate technology piracy completely. No matter what are the measures to be taken, even if they want to sent buyers to jail, in Malaysia, it will only serve to anger more people, particularly the poor. True, it will anger other parties as well. A few months ago, vice-president of Universal Music International, Francis Keeling, clearly admitted of such impossibility.

"We've got markets like Spain and Italy, where [people say] 'You buy music? What are you doing buying music when you can get it for free?' 

"Clearly those markets are in the situation where, unless we can turn those markets around, we're going to have a major problem having a music business there."
Proponents of anti-piracy laws even including Ayah Dafi blame much of the piracy from P2P clients used such as bit torrent. However, what Ayah Dafi does not know about it is that by saying that is tantamount to declaring chairs as illegal. He also doesn't know that it is also a new way of companies doing content distribution, selling software via digital download without having the need to produce hard-copies and CDs to be sold and distributed to their customers.  

At this point of time, it is unrealistic to go busting illegal downloaders unless other problems that cause this phenomenon are solved first before going for the last. 

Dinesh Nair wrote a view in The Malaysian Insider date 15 June 2010, in which I concur with the rest which augments one of my arguements. Excerpt:
Both the ministry and the minister fail to see that bittorrent and P2P can instead be put to better use. Flood it with legal content not otherwise available through normal channels. Independent film and music producers and directors have long faced barriers in getting their films to viewers, no thanks to the middlemen and channels which control the distribution chain now. Read: aforementioned recording and movie companies. Releasing a film to be seeded on bittorrent is one such way of bypassing this control, and it is no wonder the MDs of these companies are worried. They do not want to lose their mojo in deciding what you and I get to see or hear.

Blocking P2P on the network or even banning P2P users from accessing the network is not going to work either. It would be trivially simple for people to utilise servers outside the country to download P2P content, and then hop it back into Malaysia using regular web or FTP connections. This would make the bandwidth asymmetry much worse in addition to making any such ban ineffective. Given the cost of internet access now, this scenario would possibly make it worse.

Reversing content download from outside the country is paramount, and P2P helps in that if used correctly. Banning the technology for what some people do on it is myopic, but instead we need to look at the real reasons why piracy happens and address those. The short and curly of it is that the content is just priced too high and people do not see the value in it. However, by giving viewers a better experience (saw Avatar in 3D didnt you?), content producers can recover any revenue they may have lost. But innovation is important in achieving this.

One cannot keep shovelling the same drivel and expect the consumer to keep paying more for it. Nor blame a useful technology in order to retain control over a distribution system which has gone stale.

I truly appreciate efforts of some parties to have open source technology since it is free of charge, and it can be improved by everyone. Everyone is welcomed to contribute and add to the existing content. Which is why, many technological solutions are now leaning towards open source and it is favored by companies who do not have the big amount of budget and resources to develop and manufacture their solution / product. The problem is that big brand products licensing fee (annually) is very expensive, especially in a big organization and when you convert US dollars to ringgit, which at this point of time, still unfavorable even though it is just above the 3.00 level.

For example, Adobe Flex, single license costs $700 USD, or RM 2200 approx. The amount would be exponential if 100 (no bulk special price) units are ordered and to be used by a medium-level organization. If such budget is unacceptable, but requirement of working mandates that use of product, having to use a pirated copy is the very last resort that companies will have to do.

Putting a block or regulating Internet is equivalent to against Mahathir's assurance of no Internet control when the MSC started at the end of the 1990s. A sinister agenda that some believe about such moot for regulation (mentioned a few days ago by Rais Yatim) is that of identifying content that do not speak the same language as the government even though there is a valid reason of not saying the same thing.

Outdated and inflexible Malaysian censorship

Even if the government wants to block connections to ISP over an offense of illegal downloading, people would still find other ways to get what they want. Even pirates would find another way to around without facing the music.

The censorship laws in Malaysia remains unrealistic and people who do not like the censorship (since it disrupts viewing with mute sounds, sudden cuts etc) would definitely look somewhere else outside official sources to get the uncut content. 

The one that suffers mostly from unrealistic Malaysian censorship would be independent mediamakers themselves. Their artistic vision will be chopped down due to inflexible rules, outdated ones or otherwise and things that do not make sense at all. I am told recently that tax breaks were not given even though if a movie is shot entirely in Malaysia largely because of the Bahasa Malaysia requirement. Language condition should be secondary, it should instead be given as an additional tax break, not a clause that people might not agree upon. Also, independent films were not given opportunity for proper marketing. The bulk of media marketing would be hogged giant international studios. When this happens, coupled with unrealistic censorship laws and ratings, Malaysia can never showcase its unique media to real giants even though they get attention from other international circuits. India, whose income is lower than us also gets spotlight in Hollywood due to its Bollywood culture craze.

Did Malaysia give tax breaks to the studio that produced Anna and The King since it's shot in Batu Gajah and Penang?

An article titled The Price of Censorship sums up what I too wish to convey.

Hard-Fist Approaches Won't Work, Ayah Dafi

Recently, having returned from holiday in Australia, the cigarette packs there adopt a different and more positive approach in tackling smoking problems. Instead of displaying all the negative signs of smoking (showing damaged organs in autopsy sessions), smokers are coerced and get to call the quit smoke hotline and counseling that can encourage them to gradually go away from smoking (a more positive and humane approach). It is also a win-win situation, where counseling also creates jobs for people who like to do sweet talk but can't get a job in sales outside.

One way to combat that piracy is to have more video and music rental shops all around town. You can rent a title for a small amount of money, also beneficial that those who don't want to buy but want to listen / watch. There should be a chain of such shops that should be operated by those who have the unique business skill, not those who only know basics only, which in turn can help reduce the problem in a more better approach.

When I was in Singapore, I asked a family friend of mine, of such low prices in purchasing televisions (brand new) and media players. My first answer was maybe because manufacturers have their factories there as well, reducing the cost, but what was missing is that

Now what Ayah Dafi may or may not know is that in that process, if Ayah Dafi wants to send little fishes to prison, government may have to build a bigger prison and indirectly, the volume of little fishes, instead of hardcore criminals who commit more violent crimes are put into prison over crimes deem petty in moral grounds. The bottom line is that any social-related policy or law that is to be implemented cannot simply go on without taking human psyche factor and understanding it into account.

In short, many policies and laws like Police Act, UUCA Act and even this proposal are flawed and outdated because ministers and politicians didn't take human psyche and psychology into consideration. There was a saying, to manipulate a man is a careful project. Move a man lightly, and he moves at his whim. Move a man harder and he would turn against you. 

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