Pirates of the CD Bin

Article by Arthur van Pelt

01. Tanah Lot Temple

(Part of the) Tanah Lot Temple Complex, Bali (Indonesia)

Holiday in Indonesia

So here I was last month, on a well deserved holiday with my family of three, visiting our son’s grandparents in Malaysia, and spending a week with my wife in Indonesia. I will not bore you with the tourist spots like temples, palaces, hot springs, volcanoes, a coffee farm, and other interesting places that we visited. Instead, this article will highlight a certain aspect of the music industry in this part of Asia that I was finally able to experience firsthand. Between the visits to aforementioned tourist places in Indonesia,  I went hunting for Smashing Pumpkins music pressed in Indonesia and released exclusively within the local market. I was hoping to find Indonesian shops that had no idea of web shops, let alone the eBay website, and was eager for discovering really rare items with the name of my favorite band on them. To my collecting pleasure, the hunt proved to be very productive; but in a completely different way as was expected…

The only information about Indonesian Smashing Pumpkins releases I had is what SPfreaks.com currently provides about this country, and that’s very little.  In fact, the site only offers information about five Smashing Pumpkins albums released on genuine Indonesian cassettes and no more than three of their albums released on genuine Indonesian CDs! Those CD albums are Adore, Machina / The Machines of God (note the censored artwork!) and Zeitgeist. The site also documents a genuine Indonesian pressing for the Transformers soundtrack, containing the Smashing Pumpkins’ song, “Doomsday Clock”, off the 2007 album, Zeitgeist. The goal for my collecting quest was born; I should hopefully be able to find more genuine Indonesian CD albums carrying Smashing Pumpkins songs.

02. Typical CD-DVD shop Indonesia
A typical Indonesian CD & DVD shop

Cultural Disease

Did I find them? To cut a long story short, no. At least, almost no genuine Indonesian Smashing Pumpkins CD releases. The only officially released album I bought was Adore, since it was still shrink-wrapped and thus in sealed and mint condition.  What I also found, however, and to my complete astonishment, were several pirated Smashing Pumpkins CD albums; or put another way, illegal copies of Smashing Pumpkins albums. Amongst them were Rotten Apples, Earphoria and Oceania. I also found a pirated Zeitgeist which already had an official Indonesian release! This was the result of numerous visits to local music shops mostly in the public shopping areas in the center of the big cities on the isle of Bali.

What was my strategy finding those bootlegged Smashing Pumpkins albums? Well, no rocket science was needed. When on the isle of Bali, we visited several big cities, like Denpasar, Kuta and Ubud. Those cities, well prepared to receive local visitors and international tourists alike, have quite extensive shopping areas which are open nearly 14 hours a day. And in some areas almost ten percent of the shops are a music store. It takes just a few hours to visit a handful of them. A collector’s heaven one would say? Yes and no. The majority of those music shops do not stock Smashing Pumpkins music at all. The majority of the ones that do stock Smashing Pumpkins, carry no official releases of any kind, but are showcases of the Indonesian cultural disease: piracy on every shelf in the store.

The CDs and DVDs that can be found in such musical pirate stores are straightforward ugly. Later on in this article some images will prove what I mean by ‘ugly’. In most cases, a portion of the official artwork of the genuine release is badly copied, or redone in somewhat the same style of the official release. Two paper inserts (one for the front, one for the back) are put in a flimsy plastic slipcase with an amateurishly produced CD-R or DVD-R containing the music or movie slipped in-between them. That’s all you get for your bucks, folks!

03. Muse Indonesian pirate DVD

Cover of an Indonesian pirate DVD for a BBC broadcast of a 2010 UK concert of the band Muse

Modern Day Pirates

And what is the risk producing, selling, obtaining and eventually travelling abroad with these Indonesian pirated items? The European Embassy of Indonesia officially stated in 2003: “US businesses reported that Indonesia ranks as the third largest producer of pirated products. They maintain that 90 percent of all CDs (audio, video, and software) sold in Indonesia are pirated and estimate that industry suffered losses in 2002 of USD 253 million, a 33 percent increase over prior year. Indonesia’s new copyright law (Law 19/2002) takes effect on July 29, 2003. The new law increases fines up to Rp 500 million (USD 62,000) and provides for prison terms of up to five years for dealers of pirated materials.”

The standard price of a pirated CD/DVD in Indonesia is 10,000 Rp compared to the official list prices of genuine CD albums of 70,000 – 120,000 Rp. Ten thousand Rp is roughly $1.00 in the current currency exchange market. And for comparison, the average Indonesian earns less than $150 per month (in 2004 it was $106 per month according to Encarta), making it almost impossible to afford an official label released CD!

04. CD ID Greatest Hits (bootleg)a
Indonesian pirate copy of Rotten Apples (front)

No Surprise

When I returned home, I decided to spend some time researching this issue and write this article. Should I have been surprised after all about this music piracy? Maybe not; Indonesia has a profound history with pirated goods of all kind. CDs and DVDs are no exception to this rule. For example, take a look at this article which was published in the Daily Indonesia newspaper on August 29th, 2010.

INDONESIA NO.1 IN COPYRIGHT PIRACY IN ASIA

SINGAPORE – Indonesia has the worst record when it comes to protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) in Asia and Singapore the best, a survey of expatriate business people showed Wednesday.

“Indonesia seems to have lost its momentum for cracking down on IPR abuses and making the system more compliant with international standards,” Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) said. Indonesia “has passed new laws that should improve protection of intellectual property, but those rules are not enforced effectively at all, and piracy levels in Indonesia remain among the highest in the world.”

05. CD ID Greatest Hits (bootleg)b
Indonesian pirate copy of Rotten Apples (back)

Indonesia was given the worst score of 8.5 out of a maximum 10 points compared to 11 other Asian economies in the PERC survey of 1,285 expatriate managers conducted between June and mid-August. Zero is the best possible score. More advanced economies fared better, with Singapore heading the list with 1.5, followed by Japan (2.1), Hong Kong (2.8), Taiwan (3.8) and South Korea (4.1). At the other end of the scale, Vietnam was second worst at 8.4, China scored 7.9, the Philippines 6.84, India 6.5, Thailand 6.17 and Malaysia 5.8.

The rankings largely reflect studies by the global software industry, which is alarmed by the easy availability of pirated movies and software in Asian cities despite governments’ pledges to crack down. “Of the emerging Asian countries, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines are all poorly rated not only for their low level of IPR protection but also for such criteria as physical infrastructure, bureaucratic inefficiency and labour limitations,” PERC said.

08. CD ID Greatest Hits (bootleg)c
Indonesian pirate CDs of Rotten Apples (left) and Oceania (right)

China also came under strong scrutiny because of the sheer size of its economy and the presence of large companies “capable of using pirated technology to compete in foreign markets,” said PERC. “Countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia do not have this same ability to inflict global damage through IPR piracy as Chinese companies do.” While China has made strides in clamping down on IPR infringement, its goal of securing transfers of foreign know-how to Chinese firms, using access to its huge market as leverage, remains problematic, it said.

“So far many of the world’s largest multinationals have been convinced that it is worth the risk of transferring key technology to China in order to develop business there,” PERC said. “This policy is not illegal, but it could become a growing source of friction…. The more China consolidates its position as a global economic power, the more other governments will be willing to take off the gloves and fight to protect their interests.” (AFP)

06. CD ID Oceania (bootleg)a

Indonesian pirate copy of Oceania (front)

What does the most recent International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) report say about Indonesia?

2013 SPECIAL 301 REPORT ON COPYRIGHT PROTECTION AND ENFORCEMENT

Special 301 Recommendation: IIPA recommends that Indonesia remain on the Priority Watch List in 2013 and supports the U.S. government’s current evaluation of whether Indonesia is complying with its obligations under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade program due to intellectual property rights and market access concerns.

Executive Summary:  The piracy situation in Indonesia remains severe, and enforcement authorities and courts within the country have not succeeded in sufficiently curtailing copyright infringement. Due to constrained budgets and resulting problems in enforcement through IPO PPNS, Indonesian National Police (INP), and  the Commercial Court in Jakarta, 2012 saw fewer raids and very little movement on infringement cases, whether administrative, civil or criminal. The National IP Task Force, whose establishment had once held out hope for a more coordinated enforcement effort to beat back piracy  in the country, has shown little activity.

Growing  Internet piracy has been met by only limited attempts to halt this spreading problem. Compounding these issues, Customs has now instituted new procedures by which a court case must be initiated before a suspected import shipment will be detained. If true, this would amount to a clear-cut TRIPS violation. In addition, market access restrictions remain significant and must also be addressed. The Indonesian government has issued a draft copyright law, which makes some modest improvements, for example, with respect to dealing with Internet piracy, but heads in the  wrong direction on other matters. Most importantly, even if the government is able to enact an improved legal framework, in the absence of true enforcement and judicial reforms, IIPA members fear that the endemic piracy situation will remain the norm in Indonesia.

For who is interested, the rest of the IIPA report about Indonesia can be read here.

07. CD ID Oceania (bootleg)b

Indonesian pirate copy of Oceania (back)

What to Think

What do I think of all this as a Smashing Pumpkins music collector? As said, I was astonished by the wide scale and shameless nature of the music and cinema piracy in Indonesia. Nowhere on this planet have I seen such a culture openly promoting and executing theft of copyright. The article I found in the Daily Indonesia newspaper was an eye-opener; this is about serious amounts of money that bands and other parties involved are missing out on. Would I promote buying these pirate CDs and DVDs? No, of course not. On a smaller perspective, I can understand the need for cheaper CD and DVD releases on the local market, but on a wider perspective, Indonesia should immediately stop hosting these pirate nests to be taken seriously again by the worldwide copyright powers that be.

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