Illegal manufacturing is the scourge of the branded world and creators of intellectual property. From Gucci bags, Hollywood movies to music compact discs, all are illegally available in large quantities in many countries.
Before completely dismissing the notion of 'illegal' products consider instances where it may have some benefits. The controversy over the provision of HIV medication at reasonable prices in sub-Saharan Africa is one case.
The branded pharmaceutical companies spent millions developing the formulas. But can a starving HIV positive patient in Ethiopia afford to pay the price? Should the same patient be denied access to the medication because she cannot pay 'market' rates?
How about the case of celebrities – should anyone buying a pirate DVD really need to feel guilty about denying Hollywood actors a few dollars? Likewise is the case with the music industry and the illegal downloading of music by consumers. Does a multi-million dollar artist really need that extra 50 cents?
The implications of piracy are far more serious for the world than many may believe.
The intellectual debate is just beginning. The paradigm governing copyright laws is at an inflection point. The 'piracy movement' has christened a new political party in Sweden.
The Piratpartiet or Pirate Party, established in 2006, is now the third largest political party in Sweden. The party received 7% of Sweden's popular vote for the 2009 European elections and won two seats in Brussels.
The goals of the Pirate Party may seem wacky to us today but they are setting tomorrow's agenda. Without any doubt, the music industry and Hollywood are watching the rise of a pan-European Pirate Party quite closely.
The official aim of the copyright system has always been to find a balance in order to promote culture being created and spread. Today that balance has been completely lost, to a point where the copyright laws severely restrict the very thing they are supposed to promote. The Pirate Party wants to restore the balance in the copyright legislation.
All non-commercial copying and use should be completely free. File sharing and p2p networking should be encouraged rather than criminalized. Culture and knowledge are good things, that increase in value the more they are shared. The Internet could become the greatest public library ever created.
In the 1980s, the West German Green Party was a radical fringe party of 'tree huggers' and liberal radicals. The Green Party's agenda is now firmly main stream.
"Tonight your colleague will be sharing files on the Internet. Us too!" The Pirate Party
Given the popularity of the Pirate Party agenda, it will be co-opted into the mainstream soon enough.
For the individual, copyright law is a complicated issue governed by personal conscience. However, the law (as it now stands) is not complicated at all – piracy is illegal.
There is also a distinction between 'piracy' and counterfeit manufacturing.
Counterfeiting is illegal for good reason. The Chinese authorities recently unearthed a fake condom factory in central Hunan province. Employees were using vegetable oil to lubricate the condoms!
I imagine even the Pirate Party full of 'believers in free sex' Swedes will surely draw the line at fake vegetable oil flavoured condoms.