The Tale of Captain Bookbeard: an Account of Book Piracy

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The Tale of Captain BookBeard: An account of Book Piracy

A bibliophilic stroll in the streets and lanes of Kolkata is bound to get across the cries of Captain BookBeard coming from the Sea of Poppies1, The Sea of Monsters2 and The Ship of Stars3, and as one starts to wonder about the whereabouts of this ever present, as almost in every pavementbookstalls, yet elusive pirate lord, a tale starts to emerge as the tip of a stealthy ice-berg which dwells in the heart of the world of letters. Book piracy, a comparatively unknown and unfelt form of socio-economic cancer, is the common disease of every nation. But its effect is visible mostly in the developing ones, where the lack of proper implementation of law, huge disparityridden economy, rise in literacy rate and the growing cosmopolitan literary taste creates a perfect biome for the broadsides of pirate-ships to devastate the publishing houses and book-sellers selling un-pirated copies.

No right to copy!
Innovations require incentives - this is the basic idea behind the idea of ‘copyright’ that protects a writer’s work from being copied, printed and distributed without his/her prior permission, through legal sanction. Book piracy comes under the broader spectrum of ‘copyright infringement’ which includes such creative fields like songs, films, software, etc. Though, it had existed from the end of the 15th century, when competing printers started to use unfair practices, thus far before anything even close to a copyright law has been adopted anywhere. Britain was the first nation to legally designate the issue of protecting the right over one’s own creativity, and in 1709 through the Statute of Anne (enforced on the next year) in Great Britain, the authors got some protection as far production of reprints of their works was concerned and through the gradual evolution in the successive years like Engravers Act of 1735 and Copyright

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Fiction/novel by Amitabh Ghosh Fiction/novel by Rick Riordan 3 Fiction/novel by Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

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Act of 1842 to name a few, in 1911 came the Imperial Copyright Act that became somewhat the benchmark of copyright laws all over the world and soon other nations followed suit. It’ll be imperative to note that copyright based industries helps both the economic and creative fronts of any society.

The Indian scenario
Print industry in India is one of the most well established and oldest media forms in the country. It is more than a century old and is one of the only two growing print industries in the whole world besides the USA4 with near about 19,000 publishers publishing 90,000 titles per year that, according to estimation of Shakti Malli, president of the Federation of Indian Publishers, is currently “worth Rs.80 billion and it is growing by over 15 percent every year.”5 What was once a Rs.330 crore export industry in 1991 has blossomed into Rs.4.6 billion global force post globalization of Indian economy and industry. Both the post-colonial status and the globalization of education, perception and media, factors behind 45 per cent of titles being published in India to be in English, placing the country behind only the U.S. and the U.K. as the third largest publisher of English books in the world. And this includes not only magazines, newspapers and textbooks, but fiction too (though its percentage is lower as compared to the other genres) that includes prose and poetry of foreign and Indian writers (both includes translated works too) ranging from classics to contemporary bestsellers. Thus this fruition of Indian publishing industry, taking a rather ironic tone, shows to be a brooding place for copyright infringement, ranging from minor violations to naked piracy. 1847 saw the British Governor-General Sir Henry Hardinge issuing the first copyright law in India that was replaced by the 1911’s Imperial Copyright Act which finally got transformed and developed into independent India’s first copyright act, the...
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