Last updateFri, 24 Apr 2015 4pm

Buying bootlegs, illegal downloading: stealing or response to price gouging?

Mexico recently made headlines when it was included in the U.S. Trade Representative’s “Notorious Markets List,” which identifies markets around the world that harm business through intellectual property rights infringement. It was stated that the main Mexican markets selling illegal goods are the Mercado Tepito in Mexico City and Guadalajara’s San Juan de Dios.

According to the Chicago Tribune, as far back as 2005 the U.S. film industry “lost” 483 million dollars in that year alone because of Mexican movie piracy. In 2009, the Mexican Film and Music Protection Association estimated that nine out of every ten peliculas sold in Mexico are pirated. Since then, the Mexican government has tried everything from raiding tianguis to broadcasting melodramatic spots proclaiming that buying a pirated DVD is exactly the same as stealing.

But to no avail. Illegal music, movies, computer programs, video games and brand-name knockoffs are as popular as ever. Why so?

I put that question to a few people I know. Several strongly felt that buying bootleg disks was wrong and said they would never do it. Others gave me answers which I felt were thought-provoking.

Said the British owner of a successful business in Guadalajara: “We are told again and again that buying pirated disks is stealing from the artists who made them. However, if you ask the opinion of Mexican artists, you may get surprising answers. Those I talked to felt that buying pirated CDs and DVDs was quite all right, that art should be shared. If you want a higher quality version of the work, you pay more and for a lower-quality (pirated) version, you pay less. The real question, I think, is whether anti-piracy laws are protecting the artist or enriching the film and music industries.”

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