Tuesday, December 22

Peruvian Pirates, Ar Ar

They're pirates alright, except they traded in the eyepatch for a nice big copy machine. 

One victim of these pirates who spoke out angrily last week is Alfredo Bryce Echenique, 2002 winner of the Spanish literary award Premio Planeta. He is known worldwide for his novel "Un mundo para Julius (A World for Julius)" that exposes classist Peru. 

This week, Bryce has been throwing fireballs at Indecopi. 

Indecopi, short for the "National Institute of Defense of Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property," is the government agency charged with "the mission of watching over the loyal and honest competition in Peru."


Before we continue, let me interject my relevant personal observations:

Indecopi's mission statement? Ironic at best. Without fail, every Indecopi employee must pass at least one store openly selling pirated intellectual property before arriving at work every morning. 

Peruvian pirates own the books, music and DVD market here. After one week here, I was desperate for a movie. I learned that the black market is the only option. Own four DVDs for $3.30.

You might have more luck finding a legitimate book store than a movie store, but you won't find a good price. It's like the cell phone thing (see previous post)--it doesn't make economic sense to buy the real thing for three times as much, no matter how ethical you are.

It's not like these shady businesses operate undercover either. There are whole streets, whole markets purely dedicated to pirated books, music or DVDs.


But back to Indecopi vs. Bryce:

Indecopi recently charged Bryce with 16 separate counts of plagiarism. His fine? $20,000. 

It's true. More recently, Bryce has become notorious for plagiarizing articles by journalists, authors and diplomats and publishing them widely.

But obviously, Bryce agrees with me that the agency charging him is a sham. He published an opinion piece in the Peruvian magazine Caretas accusing Indecopi of being responsible for the robbery of at least one million dollars in pirated copies of his novels. He relates his experience of a book fair signing at which a number of fans brought pirated copies for him to sign.

Bryce doesn't deny plagiarizing. Instead, he proposes a deal for Indecopi. 

He'll drop their debt to him down to $300,000 dollars instead of a million, and he'll subtract the $20,ooo for his plagiarism penalty. That way Indecopi only has to pay him $280,000. 

The irony of this whole situation Bryce sums up in one line: "Why and how did I become, more than anything, the only pirate that has existed in the history of Peru?" 

He's right: how is it that the world famous novelist gets the plank while the real pirates are banking on his literary genius? 

Sorry Bryce. Looks like it's only Christmas for the pirates. Arrr.

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