Intellectual Property Rights in Developing Countries

Developing countries have always been target audiences for media markets. In certain countries, like Brazil for example, there are more Hollywood movies been screened on theaters than national production. These countries are great Western movies consumers and have been receiving heavy publicity from developed countries’ media products.

The efforts done by the American film industry to promote its movies in developing countries comes with a price. Violation to intellectual property rights, mainly copy rights, is a common practice sometimes even neglected by country’s police. Piracy dominates the film market under circumstances in which you might be able to find a new release on the black market while the film has been aired in the theatres still. This phenomena poses us a question, why piracy is common in developing countries?

The majority of audiences in developing countries survive on a minimum wage that is considerably lower when compared to developed countries. Entertainment is highly desired but often expensive. While posters, TV commercials and radio announcements spread the word about a new movie coming up, the overall population can barely afford to buy or rent a movie that costs a big portion of their monthly or weekly income. The only way available for these groups to consume movies is through piracy. Giving the example of Brazil again, there is dvds available in the black market that cost less than half of the price of a movie ticket. Currently, with the advances of technology and Internet, the quality of pirated products have been improving and becoming more seductive for the mass who can’t afford paying for media products in a licit way.

In addition to the lack of means to afford non-pirate products, most countries do not offer substantial incentives for national productions or cannot compete with western markets; therefore they become dependent of foreign content and policies.  NRC addressed in its paper titled Digital Dilemma the existing tensions among countries on the intellectual property protection: “…developing countries continue to be overwhelmingly net importers of technology and new products. Thus, an inherent tension exists between countries at different levels of economic development in their perceived interests in the global and national systems of protection.” This tension becomes apparent in all levels of IPRs as policies do not reflect the needs of consumers in developing countries, nor encourage the population to move away from buying pirated products.

Regarding to Copy Rights, it has become extremely difficult to protect this type of intellectual property right while the media industry attempts to boost the appetite for film and music consumption in regions where the meanings to afford these type of goods are slim. The only way to decrease piracy and compliance with intellectual property rights policies in developing countries is by giving them incentives to move away from illicit media consumption.

The TRIPs agreement, according to  Maskus on his “A word map for the trips ahead” aims to fix “tilts the global balance toward stronger rights for information developers…” by promising  “…to effect a short-term distribution of income in their favor from information users, in both developed and developing countries.” It is important to take into consideration that without the input of developing countries, hardly a policy or agreement will have efficient effects on the developing market without the buy-in from its societies and policy-makers.

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