It is difficult to fully grasp the scope of piracy in the entertainment industry until you have lived in the developing world. Entire chains of retail stores operate freely in downtown Baku with the express purpose of selling pirated movies, TV shows, CDs, and designer handbags, perfume and accessories. These are not dingy kiosks or some guy with DVDs spread out on a blanket on the sidewalk, but clean, shiny stores that could give any Beverley Hills retail outlet a run for its money.
As tempting as it is, I can’t bring myself to buy pirated DVDs anymore. I’ve seen firsthand how severely it effects the industry. Much of the work slowdown in Hollywood over the past three years has been the result of labor disputes, which have themselves been fueled by studios tightening the purse-strings. No one can argue that DVD piracy hasn’t been a tremendous loss for the studios.
It’s not surprising that there is no understanding of piracy among locals here, but it is a bit jarring to see how many Western foreigners shop at these places. Embassy workers, Peace Corps volunteers, legal reform experts . . . have we no shame?
State of the Caspian: murky, with a rising tide.