A few weeks ago I had posted one of my usuall “Open Source License” rants, where I explained and ranted about the state of Open Source license enforcement in Israel. A recent study by the IIPA (International Intelectual Property Alliance) had positioned Israel as the number 1 copyright piracy country in the world!

When you think abuot it, it’s a little strange, as Israel is fairly small. However,  in relation to the number of Internet connected users in Israel, the number of downloads of pirated software or other copyrighted material in Israel is of the highest percentage in the world. Sure, we all download a movie or episode here and there, but, some people in Israel go about and completely utilize pirated material only. Sure, I like watching my weekly episode of Fringe, but what can I do that no network in Israel is broadcasting it. So, I download the episodes via Bittorrent and watch them as they are published. However, on the other hand, I do purchase Microsoft licenses for my PC’s (yes, I have a Windows XP and a Windows Vista box – running Windows and Office), I did purchase a Mandriva PowerPack package for my Linux destktop and notebook and yes, I did purchase my books about DOJO, PHP and AJAX – so, I can honestly say that my utilization of pirated material is that for things I can’t obtain in Israel at all.

One would argue that it is still piracy, well, there is a certain point in that – however, if there is no one to pirate from where you are located, how can you pirate something? according to the dictionary, the noun priate means:

  1. One who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without commission from a sovereign nation.
  2. A ship used for this purpose.
  3. One who preys on others; a plunderer.
  4. One who makes use of or reproduces the work of another without authorization.
  5. One that operates an unlicensed, illegal television or radio station.
Ok, let’s take a look at the above and examine:
  1. Considering the fact that I’m not at sea nor am I attacking from the sea, I don’t qualify for item 1.
  2. I won’t even consider number 2.
  3. I don’t prey on others to take something, the airing of a TV show in the US is well published. Hell, the TV stations even publish their content online – only available in the US however – according to item 3.
  4. Ok, I do make use personal use of another persons work without authorization, however, as there is no local representation for the show that I’m watching – that point is somewhat muted in my view – according to item 4.
  5. I don’t operate an illegal or other wise unlicensed TV or Radio station – according to item 5.
So, taking all of the above, I can be considering a small time pirate – I only pirate the shows that I like watching. What’s available here I watch on TV.
Nonetheless, I’m not arguing that copyrighted material piracy is OK – the simple reason is that people in Israel even pirate the things that don’t need to be pirated. For example, Open Source software is being exploited and resold in Israel as proprietary software. Actually, people in Israel have no idea what Open Source really means, thus, people can push whatever lame story to people.
For example, this week I went to a meeting at a small Contact Center. I went there to discuss the installation of a Recording System for the installed PBX system (I have developed one of the most robust CRM/ERP aware recording systems for Asterisk). In any case, I go to the meeting and sit down with the CEO and owner of the Contact Center. I start explaining that I’m using Asterisk, he suddenly stops me and says that he met with the CEO of a certain company, who claims that they developed Asterisk. Actually, he said that the CEO claimed that the initial idea for Asterisk was his. I was pissed off! I started explaining to the man that Asterisk is developed by Digium and it’s an Open Source product and basically, apart from Asterisk Business Edition, no-one, not even I, can sell Asterisk as is. We can create a product based on Asterisk, but we can’t sell Asterisk, nor claim it is ours. After showing the man some websites and various videos of Mark Spencer discussing Asterisk he asked me: “How can that man claim that he developed Asterisk, when it is clear that he didn’t?” – and I responded: “Because people in Israel don’t give a damn and remain ambivalent to the truth”.
I guess that is the same reason why Internet Piracy is so big in Israel. Much of the stuff we want isn’t available here in shops, so go ahead and pirate it. Once you’re used to pirating something, pirating anything simply becomes a second nature to you. I suggest that the IIPA do a better statistic and check the actual pirated content being downloaded, out of which, check how much content isn’t available in Israel in normal distribution channels – and then remove that information from the statistics. I’m confident that while the number will still be high, Israel will no longer be number 1 in the list.