Piracy, Money and Greed

  7 min 31 sec to read


The life of 'celebs' in Nepal is still difficult, because, once they start gaining a public image, they have to spend large sums of money on their daily lifestyle. In one recent interview, model and actor Priyanka Karki had stated that her average monthly expense was around fifty thousand as she explained the economic challenges that any 'celebrity' had to face in Nepal. Both the Nepali music industry as well as the movie industry is not that huge for a celebrity to become a 'big shot' overnight. They do have equal challenges to overcome, and like Bartika Eam Rai explains in one of her interviews - Celebrity is a cyclic process, where yesterday someone was a celeb, today someone is, and tomorrow someone else will be.

Though Saroj Khanal and Karishma Manandhar seem to be back in Nepal, there are still those who seem to be enjoying life abroad. Be it Sarun Tamrakar or Karna Das. Sanjeev Singh and Raju Lama stayed abroad for a pretty long time as well, and Kandara has come back after a long time. But again, a number of celebrities now seem totally forgotten- like the old adage, out of sight, out of mind. After all, it would be a difficult life here, with their source of income drastically low. Now, rising prices and political instability have been making lives difficult for the average person too. A cup of tea costing Rssix just a few years back now costs Rs 15. A student now spends Rs 12 on a micro ride when a few years back it was half the price. Spending more on daily expenses narrows the field of options. People end up thinking twice now - Should I watch a movie this week with my college friends or should I stay back and rather spend my money on next Friday's dance party?

Piracy comes exactly in between. There are two sides to piracy as well- the artist’s side and the audience's side. While artists want the audience to buy their work so that they can make money, the audience would rather spend the money on chicken for dinner. After all, both want to possess liquid assets. Rogers has correctly defined the market craze of innovations- where 2.5 percent are the innovators, 13.5 percent being early adopters, 34 percent being late majority and the remaining laggards of 16 percent. The last two 'laggards' and 'late majority' make up 50 percent who want to taste those innovation once the price falls, or when opportunity strikes, get them for free. 

The Nepali market is similar. While there are early birds who invest to experience the new innovation, there are equally laggards. They wait until a piece of music or a movie can be got free of cost. Asking people to stop watching pirated movies, or to listen to pirated songs, or read those pirated kindles can be summarized thus- there's free entry to Sanga Shiva's Statue if you enter from behind, but if you take the main entrance you will have to pay. There are decent people who may prefer to enter from the main gate, but there also others who would rather spend the ticket price on snacks. Since the 2000s, Nepali music artists have been promoting the 'Stop Piracy' campaign, but as expected, greed overcomes ethics and the campaign has largely failed. 

Nischal Basnet claimed to have lost 20-25 lakhs because of leaked versions of ‘Kabaddi Kabaddi’. Yash Kumar had suffered a similar loss a few years back. The Recording Industry Association of America has claimed it lost USD 12.3 billion in 2011, while the loss for movies was estimated at USD 6.1 billion in the same year, as stated by the Motion Picture Association of America. Does that mean with the growing technology, the rate of piracy is increasing? In that context, Avatar has made the highest sales, breaking history, earning more than USD 2.78 billion breaking the record of Gone with the wind. If piracy is that strong, how would Avatar have been so successful?

But, a deeper study shows that the earnings made by Gone with the Wind back in 1939 were much higher than Avatar if we consider the inflation effect. USD 400 million in that period would be more than three times what Avatar would have earned. Taylor Swift feared to even talk about her album because of the same fear.

So, where does the solution lie? Consumers may feel why spend when you don’t have to. That is absolutely normal. But, would the audience pay if the prices were fair? Radiohead has the answer to this. When they released their album In Rainbows, they let the audience decide the price for it. They initially put the album online, allowing listeners to pay whatever they wanted including '0'. To their surprise, they earned £4 per album on an average, and were able to break their own previous album’s record. This showed that if prices are fair, fans are ready to pay. Bipul Chhetri has not charged that much at oklisten.com either. Bipul's fans would not mind spending Rs 20 on a song download, that is, if it's not available somewhere for free, would they?

But this mechanism does not always work because there were listeners who downloaded Radiohead's songs paying '0' as well. In a survey, the people who downloaded the songs for free said they didn’t consider it as theft because it wasn’t like stealing something physical from a shop.

Now, the best way to stay secure from piracy is to be insured. When software developers and video games developers can develop serial numbers when installing any application, why can't movies and music go for that? Consumers will always want something for free as long as it’s available; they should be sensible enough to take necessary precautions to stay away from piracy trouble. From finger printing digital assets, to the Hong Kong Youth Ambassador model - mechanisms exist to stop piracy. There also exist anti-piracy companies, who can work on someone's behalf, or there are watermarking companies.

Everyone wants to watch the latest movie, or listen to the latest song, but they are uncertain when they will get to see it. If Highlights Nepal assures that the movie will be available on Youtube after two months, people have the choice to wait. On the same note, they can sell it to TV channels at a reasonable price to recover some of the expense. Apart from this, they can insert advertisements every time they upload a full movie, and generate some income out of it. Zapping probably would be difficult, because of the uncertainties in time for short advertisements in full movies. The best way to make a quick profit is to make a single world wide release using everything at your disposal. Bipul Chhetri's collaboration with Honda to download Siriri from his second album Maya appeared to be a wise move. Hamromovies has started allowing downloads of movies if people pay Rs 15- a great way to generate income, and people won't have trouble with that either. But, again, people have to have access to esewa, which not everyone has.

It's high time for Nabin K. Bhattarai to ask himself, why should his audience buy his songs? There has to be something different for those who buy his albums and those who download it for free. A signed T-Shirt for those who buy his album can be one incentive. Why should a fan purchase Rohit J. Chhettri's songs when he does not get anything special? How about offering customers a discount ticket for his concert? In a similar vein, Avatar was not only successful for being a good movie, but audiences also wanted to experience the new 3D effect. People had to visit the theatre to gain the effect, and that was not possible from home. These could be some of the best ways in which to make people pay for a product. Or maybe, perceptions have to change. The freely available music could be treated as a source of promotion to attract people to concerts.

Piracy cannot be compared to stealing selroti from a sweet shop instead there are enough sweets on the road; it's about having someone pick them up, and the challenge is not about stopping people from picking them up, but preventing them from being scattered on the road.

Regmi is a freelance writer and a blogger. He blogs at dwaipon.blogspot.com

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