Piracy in Pakistan

Book Piracy

Pakistan is perhaps the worst book piracy haven in the world. Large-scale photocopy piracy and print piracy make the market virtually untenable for legitimate publishers. All types of books are pirated – practically anything that can sell more than a few hundred copies. English language novels and other trade books are popular among pirates, and as a result, U.S. publishers of mainstream commercial fiction and non-fiction are struggling. This type of piracy affects academic titles as well. While the quality of the pirated copies is often poor across the board, some pirates are now able to produce better quality copies that are more difficult to differentiate from the legitimate versions. To this end, publishers are forced to employ measures such as the use of holograms to distinguish legitimate product from counterfeits.

The academic market in Pakistan has been completely overrun by piracy. Elementary and high school courses taught in English routinely feature pirate versions of books.3 Piracy at the university levels is even worse, with rates soaring over 90%. Often, one student will purchase the required reading for a class and then organize the photocopying for the entire class, or lend the book to other students for them to copy any material they require.4 Some medical titles have been pirated, usually in one color, so they have misleading and inaccurate illustrations. Lack of government motivation to reduce book piracy levels results in an almost total lack of criminal prosecutions, even in cases where pirates are arrested, and fines are derisory. Thus, there is little deterrence in the market. Piracy levels can range from 40% to over 90% of the market, depending on the title.

By contrast, publishers report a higher rate of legitimate sales of reference materials to libraries. This is likely attributable to the high cost of producing these materials and the relatively small market over which to spread production costs, making this market unattractive to pirates looking to turn a large profit. This may also be due to the Pakistani government’s “National Education Policy 1998-2010” which states in part, “School, college and university libraries shall be equipped with the latest reading materials/services.” Contributing to this increase in business in Pakistan are the increased imports of Indian-printed “technical” and “religious” titles.6 The problems inherent in a system generating demand from India include: 1) reason to suspect shipments from India are mixed, containing pirate books, Indian-only reprints, and copies that are legitimate for distribution in Pakistan; and 2) general hostility among many to having India supply Pakistan with books on cultural/social/political grounds. Nonetheless, it may be that in the short term providing authorized texts from India is a way for legitimate right holders to gain a toehold in a previously impenetrable market.

A longer term solution to opening up the market in Pakistan is to deal effectively with the Urdu bazaars. Recently, publishers have engaged in trying to clean up the Urdu Bazaar in Karachi, which features 350 booksellers and wholesalers (there are a further 700 sellers in a second bazaar in Lahore). The bazaars are the main source of pirated books for Pakistan and have remained relatively untouched by raid action over the past few years. Notwithstanding some enforcement actions in late 2005 and into 2006,7 the bazaars remain rife with piracy, and enforcement has been weak to nonexistent given the political connectedness of the pirate booksellers. In addition, IIPA continues to be alarmed by the incidents of violence carried out by pirate operators.

Illustrative of the lack of will and weakness of the authorities in Pakistan was a policeassisted raid in Karachi in a book market replete with piracy. Books were seized and some offenders were taken to the neighborhood police station. However, there was a strong reaction from the market and many of the booksellers surrounded the police station demanding that the police not file the “First Information Report” (FIR) against the offenders and to release them immediately. The police folded under the pressure and asked for a written undertaking from the offenders that they would not engage in piracy, whereupon they released the defendants without filing an FIR.

Business Software End-User Piracy Is Endemic:

Despite significant public awareness and enforcement drives by the business software industry, the piracy situation for the business software sector remained serious in 2006. Pakistan holds the dubious distinction of having one of the highest end-user software piracy levels in the world.