Imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery, and when it comes to books, it’s never the case. Piracy is an issue Pakistani publishing houses and writers have been battling for long; yet it continues to thrive.
One of the biggest deterrents in protecting Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is that pirated books are easily available at many bookshops. Readers, particularly students, feel justified in purchasing pirated copies since there are no checks and certainly little awareness of how this act will negatively affect the publishing industry.
The issue worsens when local titles, which are neither very expensive, nor difficult to acquire, are pirated, which discourages writers from continuing with their creative pursuits.
“As a writer, I feel there’s no moral ground for piracy, and it simply cannot be justified,” says Asif Farrukhi. “It creates a huge problem for writers and because of it we have no access to royalties.”
“If piracy goes unchecked, a situation will arise where creative men and women will have no reward for their intellectual labour,” endorses Ameena Saiyid, managing director of OUP. “They would then be forced to seek employment to support themselves, which means that they will have little or no time for creative work.”
Readers, on the other hand have their own grouse. Books, even locally published, are sometimes beyond means, they argue, and there’s little choice but to resort to piracy.
“I’m a student with limited pocket money, and unlimited craving for reading, so purchasing original titles is unthinkable,” says Shehryar. “Perhaps the publishing houses should also meet us halfway, and cut production cost to bring the retail price at par with pirated copies. We would certainly opt for the original then.”
While there’s no denying that a very small segment of the population can afford original copies, piracy is not the answer. Perhaps, the best solution to the issue would be setting up libraries in every locality, which would not only improve the level of readership, but also curb violations of IPR.
More importantly, adds Saiyid, we need to change the mindset of the public which regards pirates as Robin Hood, creating ways for the less privileged to have access to reading. Readers should be made aware that by endorsing piracy they are eventually hurting the publishing industry already affected by limited readership. Laws should also be reassessed and enforced properly, with regular raids of shops that stock pirated books.