One columnist in the SCMP worth reading is Jack van der Kamp. Today he has an interesting take on the battle by copyright holders (especially luxury goods firms) against counterfeiters. As it's unlinkable I've pasted the whole thing in the extended entry. I don't agree with much of what he says but it provides an interesting point of view. So long as companies can show they make reasonable efforts to protect their products from "theft" (intellectual or real) they have an expectation that the local law enforcement will make sure their rights are protected. If they choose to charge outrageous prices for "illusions" then that is a matter for the company and the consumer. Likewise if HK has laws and treaties that require it to enforce copyright then those obligations must be met.
UPDATE: As Conrad rightly points out in the comments, this very entry engages in the same "copying" from an overpriced good. And people say irony is dead.
Let us cut through to the core of the illusion business. French fashion goods makers expect us to pay with our tax money for police protection of profits made from overcharging us for their wares. This was in effect the long and short of the message from an alliance of 65 French luxury brands, the Comite Colbert, at a meeting last week with our government's intellectual property department and, from what I can tell, the people on our side grovelled as usual and said: "Yes, you're right, that's fair, that's exactly what we should do." It is what they have always said and I see no reason to think that they have stopped standing on their heads and begun to realise exactly what this game is about. It is about money, about the presumed right of foreign copyright holders to take as much of it from us as they would like and about their presumption that we ought to pay the costs of permitting them to do it.
Now I know that you probably do not see it quite as I do. I am in a minority here, the self-appointed spokesman for Copyright Robin Hood in his campaign against a modern version of the sheriff of Nottingham. I know it. How dare I then publicly condone criminality?
There is nothing legally complicated about this, you say. These luxury goods makers have a legitimate claim to ownership of their brands. They have the right to sell them for whatever they wish. They do not force people to buy them. They are entirely within their rights.
True, and if I happen to be a bystander when a gang of thieves breaks into a shop at gunpoint and runs off with armfuls of high-priced merchandise you will find me first to say: "They went thataway, constable, go get 'em!"
But we are not talking of this kind of theft. Luxury goods producers do not make their money from selling us goods. They make it from selling us illusions. Central to their marketing strategy is their aim to convince us that the handbags or pens they sell are of a matchless standard of workmanship and this is why we pay high prices.
It was probably true a century ago. It is not true any longer. Quality manufacture is no longer the preserve of aproned European artisans working with hand tools at a wooden bench with the Swiss Alps outside the window. We are in the machine age. Get the right machines, set them up the right way and it is a job for technicians. It can be done by anyone anywhere.
There is simple proof of this. You can find it on the streets in what Robin Hood will sell you if the police are not looking.
There is also simple proof that these goods are up to the brand name standards. The market thinks they are for the price at which they are offered and this is the only proof that counts.
The difference in price between the pirate product and the legitimate article represents the illusion and this leads to a question. Should the right of the illusionist to a deliberately fostered false state of mind have the same legal protection as ownership of property?
I concede that to push this line of reasoning would suggest that I have some curious ideas about the workings of law. Perhaps, you say, I may want to try them out in a court of law as a defence against a charge of breaching copyright and see how long it takes the judge to bang his gavel down and send me off for a stretch of corrective thinking.
No, I would not try it but I do think that Moses with his stone tablets had not quite got to the stage of thinking about copyright piracy with his commandment: "Thou shalt not steal."
Most of us would agree that the traditional Robin Hood had some good reasons to breach the commandment. Modern society has even more ways of introducing doubt to supposedly cut and dried certainties. When foreign copyright holders scream "theft, theft, theft!" we should perhaps ponder a little more closely just who is being robbed.
They want us to use our hard-earned tax money, not the tax money of their own nationals or, perish the thought, their own revenues, to hire more policemen to enforce draconian laws that are largely copied from abroad and written to enhance their profits at our expense.
Well, fellas, if you want a real remedy to the way that copyright pirates have stuck the pin of reality into the bubble of your carefully crafted illusions, then try dropping your prices to compete with them and stop pretending that your purpose is to improve our moral well-being rather than your earnings.
I see theft in copyright as well as in the breach of copyright with the way you people have convinced lawmakers around the world to cater to your interests alone.