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to Those Who Are Sick of Piracy
Joined by friends in Europe and America, I am a German artist who wishes to interest you, I hope a new friend, in the writing, publication and worldwide distribution of a book which must be published I think very soon: The Piracy Pandemic.
Today I am writing to you to ask of you three things, NOT one of which is money, because just money cannot stamp out piracy. The three things I wish instead to ask of you, Dear Friend, can indeed accomplish that, and they are these three things: your help in identifying actual individuals to write separate chapters; your support of the book project, expressed in a letter to a reputable publisher, perhaps emphasizing your belief in the need for worldwide awareness of the enormous piracy problem; and your participation in a worldwide foundation to be established and to be funded entirely by all proceeds from The Piracy Pandemic.
The book must of course be published first in English, after which there will be an immediate demand to translate it into many other languages, because its readership will be literally everyone in the world who is being damaged or victimized by piracy today, which means: everyone in the world is a potential buyer of this book that must be written and published.
So: in every industry today, piracy is a growing problem which is already huge. The Business Software Alliance says that, for one example, 89% of all software now used in Russia is pirated. It maybe is even worse in the film industry, because 95% of all movie discs in China are now said to be pirated. Also in music, an industry which is losing at least $5.2 billion to piracy each year. It is the same, too, with luxury goods like Rolex watches, Zippo lighters, Mont Blanc pens and Callaway golf clubs, all of which are being mass-produced in ‘the world's four leading pirate marketplaces Brazil, China, Russia and Mexico,’ as well as in Thailand, the pirates' main ‘base.’ Consumer products are also being pirated right and left, frequently resulting in people's deaths, as from pirated automobile tires which blow out (a huge problem in Germany and throughout Europe today). In the pharmaceutical industry: the same many billions of dollars lost to piracy each year. Also in your country's crafts: more than 50% of all ‘handmade Native American’ arts and crafts, such as ‘Navajo rugs,’ are now being mass-produced in factories in the Philippines, Pakistan, India and Thailand. And now we come also to my own industry: the fine arts.
The statistics I have just cited to you come from a major article which was recently written about the piracy of my bronzes and the bronzes and paintings of countless artists, including me and especially including Jane DeDecker of Loveland, Colorado. This major article was written by Mr. Paul Soderberg and appeared in the May and June issues of Art-Talk newspaper, which goes to 45,000 subscribers. The title of his two-part article is ‘The Art Piracy Pandemic.’ Made aware of the problem by that article, other art publications have now begun also to publicize the art piracy pandemic, including Art & Antiques (Summer 2004, p. 20) and Art of the West (July/Aug. 2004, p. 97). You can see the original article by Mr. Soderberg at www.bronzecopyright.com and it should strike you with this one fact, that the fine arts today are being heavily victimized by the very same thing which to every other industry is such a plague: piracy.
There will be many reasons why piracy is such a plague today, or in Mr. Soderberg's term, a ‘pandemic.’ But one big reason, I am thinking, is that every targeted industry tries only to deal with the problem on its own. The pirates flourish because of divide-and-conquer. All industries are now divided yes? But like the poet John Donne said in his Meditation XVII, ‘No man is an island, entire of itself É any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’ So I believe deeply that piracy will continue to plague all the world's industries until sculptors are as outraged by software piracy as they are by art piracy, and software engineers are as outraged by pharmaceutical piracy as they are by software piracy, and so on. Through unity, we can be victorious but never so long as we all remain divided, isolated islands in the immense Pacific Ocean of piracy.
When that happens when all the world's industries unite against piracy in any and every form then there is the same hope to end piracy in all its forms as in the days of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd and so on, an era which only ended when they were all declared to be Hostes humani generis, ‘enemies of all mankind.’
So I think you immediately see the great desirability of such a book for worldwide distribution.
My idea is for The Piracy Pandemic to consist of 15 or more chapters, each one recounting the personal battle against pirates of one or two people in diverse industries. The idea of this is to show the forest by focusing on the trees, as you say in America. This already newspapers and visual media such as television are doing: to report a major catastrophe, they focus on how a single actual individual woman or child or family is affected by that huge catastrophe. Am I right? Of course. So in our book, through the true personal stories of such individuals, the reader comes to understand in a powerful way, both intellectual and visceral, that the problem is a single thing piracy affecting every part of life today, und not just the separate problems of different unrelated industries like movies, pharmaceuticals, paintings, and so on.
These are the chapters I envision to be in this book to open the eyes of the world to the fact that we are all under attack by the very same thing, piracy:
The Piracy Pandemic
Chapter 1: Piracy Then and Now
A review of the Golden Age of Piracy of the 18th Century and how that era of piracy was finally stamped out, followed by an introduction to today's Dark Age of Piracy, ending with a brief review of what the next 15 or so chapters will reveal.
Chapter 2: Information Technology Piracy
The true account of Q's fight against the software pirates.
Chapter 3: Movie Piracy
The true account of R's fight against the movie pirates.
Chapter 4: Music and Entertainment Piracy
The true account of S's fight against the recording industry pirates.
Chapter 5: Identity Piracy
The true account of T's fight against the identity-theft pirates.
Chapter 6: High-End Retail Piracy
The true account of U's fight against the luxury-goods pirates.
Chapter 7: Low-End Retail Piracy
The true account of V's fight against the pirates of common consumer products.
Chapter 8: Literary Piracy
The true account of W's fight against the pirates of books and other written words.
Chapter 9: Pharmaceutical Piracy
The true account of X's fight against the medical industry pirates.
Chapter 10: Ethnic Crafts Piracy
The true account of Y's fight against the pirates of Native American arts and crafts (and perhaps also a separate chapter on the foreign mass-production and worldwide sale of ‘African masks’ and so on, plaguing ethnic cultures everywhere).
Chapter 11: Fine Arts Piracy
The true account of Jane DeDecker's and Impala Lechner's fight against the art pirates (already sketched out in the enclosed two-part article by Mr. Soderberg).
After these personal true adventure stories, then we must have some experts to write about the underlying issues of all those personal stories, such as:
Chapter 12: The Most Endangered Species: Originality
The death of esteem for originality and the rise of the ‘cheap-is-best’ mentality.
Chapter 13: Cheap Class
How people throughout Europe and America and now even Asia have come to believe that they can buy high quality at bargain-basement prices and so purchase their way into the world of ‘class.’
Chapter 14: Life in a World Without Creativity: A Horror Story
A review of what happens to creative people when creativity is fair game to pirates. The creativity of artists, engineers, medical researchers, and everyone else whose creativity results in advances for Mankind: how piracy stifles or strangles the very people whose inspired thoughts carry the promise of new inventions, creations and discoveries to make the world a healthier and happier place.
Lastly must come a chapter to conclude the book by giving the ‘big picture’ today and also thoughts about the future.
Chapter 15: Fighting Back
A review of current approaches for fighting piracy, none of which can ever solve the total problem, followed by a visionary look at what can and must be done to solve the total problem.
When a person finishes reading this book, she or he will understand the global problem in a completely new and personal way. What Mr. Soderberg wrote about Art will then be true for all of modern life this realization: ‘So that's the whole big picture, and it's not pretty. We thought the Art world was a Wilson Hurley landscape, majestic and moving. Turns out it's Edvard Munch's The Scream.’
In my own battles against art pirates since 2002, I have found two reactions in artists and art collectors learning of the art piracy problem for the first time. Either they are outraged and anxious immediately to do something about the problem; or they are outraged and immediately hopeless because the problem seems so immense. Famous sculptors have said to me, ‘Okay, so someone is pirating five or so of my pieces, but what can I do? Best to keep my head in the sand.’ I reply to them: ‘Okay, today five or so, but how will you feel when all your limited-editions are being pirated and sold around the world today, destroying your reputation?’ But still they shrug, feeling that they can do nothing. So this book will be a real inspiration to people like that, who will realize that they are not alone and that through unity the problem is not so hopeless after all. Meanwhile, as I have noted, there are already those who are outraged and stimulated to act, such as Mr. Soderberg, who heard about the problem, immediately researched it, and wrote ‘The Art Piracy Pandemic.’
By itself, no book can end today's worldwide piracy plague, of course. But this must also be true: without worldwide awareness of the problem, nothing else will ever end it; and nothing yet devised can achieve the deep awareness that is possible through a well-written book (least of all newspapers or magazines, which can be read and immediately forgotten). That is all this book of ours, The Piracy Pandemic, will achieve, ideally: real awareness, meaning outrage followed by readiness to entertain solutions. Therefore the most crucial chapter will be Chapter 15, as shown above: the review of current ineffective solutions and recommendations of future effective solutions.
For example, there now are only lawsuits and police raids those, essentially, are the only things being done about piracy anywhere: try to catch them, then take them to court. Here and there, however, other solutions are being attempted. For example, Thailand has recently established a new court for handling strictly piracy cases: the ‘Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court’ in Bangkok (where one new case is now being filed every six hours, around the clock). Your own country has a ‘Special 301 Watch List’ for monitoring countries giving inadequate protection to intellectual property. Taiwan is on that list yet Taiwan now has a special force of 220 full-time ‘Intellectual Property Police’ and a reward system that offers $299,000 to infringement informers. And in your Los Angeles Police Department there is now a full-time ‘Art Crime’ unit, and so on.
But all such efforts to stamp out piracy are doomed to failure so long as they are conducted in isolation, pharmaceutical people thinking that their battle has nothing to do with the battle movie people are fighting, and so on. My own battle is a perfect example of the problem and the solution: I, a lone artist, must fight for example a dozen art pirate companies, just one of which has revenues of $85 million per annum. What hope is there for one individual with shallow pockets to battle against such a huge monster of a company with its own army of lawyers? It is Custard's Last Stand. But!!! When individuals like me everywhere join together, and all industries ally themselves in one unstoppable force, then suddenly the companies who make only $85 million per annum are mere bugs to be crushed by our shoes.
This book project, The Piracy Pandemic, will be the world's first call to arms to individuals everywhere and in all industries to join forces against the common enemy of all mankind.
As a very important point, I believe that this book especially Chapter 15 will make it very clear that we cannot wait for governments to solve the piracy problem for us. Only the private-sector can take the lead in a unified strategy wherein governments and politicians are of course important allies, but not in ‘the driver's seat,’ as you Americans say thanks to your great love of automobiles. This is why I am writing to you, Dear Friend: because you are a private-sector individual who is a leader in your own industry.
And what, exactly, am I asking of you? Three things.
Very important to any future solution to the piracy problem will of course be funds but to look for funds from individuals such as yourself would be quite wrong. What I have instead proposed to you in this letter is also the source of such funds, perhaps to establish a world foundation for the monitoring of the fight against piracy. What better way to fund such an organization than through the proceeds from this book, The Piracy Pandemic because those millions of people who buy the book thus become contributors to the foundation through the 15 or 20 euros they spent because they are vitally interested in seeing all piracy stamped out.
(As an aside, I should say that there will be poetic justice in the fact that virtually all those practicing piracy today will definitely also buy the book, to see what is being said about them and thus our foes will join our friends in financing the demise of their own profession of piracy.)
So this is all my proposal to you, Dear Friend. Of course you are a very busy person; but I am convinced that you see piracy as a problem that cannot be ignored; and I hope now, through this letter to you, that you will also see one real, workable solution that might someday go down in history as the modern equivalent of Uncle Tom's Cabin: a little book that exposed a great evil and set in motion the forces that eventually eradicated that evil to make this world a better place.
Will you accept the role of supporter of this book to make the modern world a better place for all the world's people by setting in motion the forces that eventually will stamp out piracy in all its forms? I hope to hear from you back your answer soonest.