The Real Victims of Piracy

Even though almost ten years have passed since Oman got its first copyright law, most people still seem to have a strange self-entitlement to everything they find on the internet. The majority of people do not have any feeling of guilt when they illegally download any song, video, or game they did not pay for.

Oman, and many other Arab countries, are in a unique position that makes them detached from primary producers of popular digital content such as the US and Europe – who might not necessarily consider this region as a target for their music or computer programs. It is very difficult for foreign content producers to take legal action against infringers of copyright in Oman and it is impossible for the authorities to regulate illegal downloads on the internet (even though they somehow seem to always have the time and resources to block every single VOIP website they can find).

To the majority of people copyright infringement seems like a victimless crime: musicians and film makers in the US seem to be doing alright, they do not really expect to sell in Oman, of all places, much anyway, and even if these companies did make a loss, they are multinational institutions that can make money through a million other ways.

This makes it very difficult for our region to be taken seriously as a viable market for selling some copyright works. The result of this is that those of us who want to legally buy music in Oman find it very difficult to find any shop that can afford to continue stock up music CDs that nobody buys. Software products rarely ever get an official release in this region and there are no tech support or after sale services for such programs. The gaming industry is totally unregulated in this region and there is never any localization of game content.

The worst problem with piracy is that it makes it very difficult for local musicians, programmers, and game developers to be able to make money from creating local content in this market. Creating a polished work obviously requires money and investment, and you cannot make money from intellectual property works in a place where copyright is not respected. It is no wonder that there are no Omani video games or computer programs (genuine or otherwise) sold in any computer shop in the country.

Oman has had copyright law in place for about a decade now, but it is very difficult to enforce it because of the internet and the fact that content providers will find it very inconvenient to take cross-border legal action. Society itself must start respecting copyright and realize that the biggest loser in all of this is society itself, because if we do not encourage or reward creativity we will continue to only live off works made in other places in the world.

The situation in Oman is not totally hopeless because authorities have realized that the process to create respect for copyright must start from the bottom up, and as a result a special lesson about copyright has been added to the eleventh grade government school syllabus here in Oman in hope it makes students appreciate the importance of copyright and how piracy could be damaging. The college of law at SQU is also expected to start teaching intellectual property as part of the law degree curriculum. That by itself will not instantly make everyone respect copyright, but it is a step in the right direction.

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