You’ve seen Pirates of the Caribbean. You know what pirates are like. They are unscrupulous yet charming n’ere-do-wells who sail around the Caribbean in search of treasure. They drink lots of rum and kill people and occasionally look like Johnny Depp. This is the stereotypical idea of a pirate –and yet the dawn of the 21st century has brought a new scourge to global society’s shores: audio-visual piracy.
Johnny Depp and privateers aside, piracy has historically been acknowledged as a bad thing for society and there are no benefits associated with it. This is certainly still true in some respects, but Tristan Mattelart’s “Audio-visual Piracy: towards a study of the underground networks of cultural globalization” offers some surprising evidence for pro-piracy arguments. He asserts that audio-visual piracy may act as a facilitator of cultural globalization. “The networks of the informal economy through which pirated goods are distributed are an integral, although often neglected, part of the transnational media system, and therefore far from immune to the relationships of domination on which this system is based,” he writes. Later on, he relates that “…it is true that piracy not only plays an important role in providing the population access to products and services which it would otherwise be deprived of’ but has also given rise, in Pakistan as in other countries, to quite a significant sector of economic activity.”
I am firmly opposed to audio-visual piracy, but I am interested in the impacts of audio-visual piracy on cultural globalization and vice versa. It seems that in some cases, the spread of audio-visual piracy is aided by the fact that viewers have no other way to see the content. This looks like a marketing failure on the part of the Western film industry and brings up interesting ethical questions.