Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pirates of the Altiplano

On every street corner you can buy first-rate music CDs for 63 cents and DVDs of first-run American and European movies for $1.75. I am told that the Colombians are the world champions of music, film and book piracy. The bookstores in the center of La Paz and Santa Cruz have very convincing photocopied editions of bestsellers in Spanish for $3 or $4. A book at full price would represent a week´s salary for a domestic worker or a couple of days´pay for a construction worker.
The covers of pirated books are meticulously color copied and laminated. Then the pages are photocopied in the original size and cut so that at first glance the books appear to be the real thing. A closer look reveals the truth.
There is honor among thieves, however. The Colombian pirates have a gentleman´s agreement not to sell any pirated Bolivian movies, books or music in Bolivia.
Presumably the agreement stops at the border.
No one cares a whit that some American or European artist, publisher or movie distributor might be losing some money. They´re on the other side of the world. If you look through the other end of the telescope, we buy our clothing and shoes and electronics cheaply because they´re made offshore somewhere. We don´t really ask ourselves why the prices are so low. Both here in Bolivia and back in the U.S. the only thing the consumer really cares about is everday low prices. If someone is victimized in the process, we don´t see it.

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