Avarice and Piracy


The alarmed anticipation of HIV positive or HIV vulnerable populations at the new development of the possibility of a free trade treaty between the European Union and India is understandable. Although this may not be enough cause for the anticipated treaty to be pulled off, if and when the treaty is signed, the concern ought to be made an important factor in determining the shape of the treaty. The concern in short is that the treaty would definitely include an adherence to the Intellectual Property Rights understanding, which would severely restrict or else even decimate generic industries, in their case the generic pharmaceutical industry, so prevalent in developing economies like India. The direct impact would be a sudden rise in the price of HIV/AIDS drugs, as low price unpatented generic drugs would disappear from the markets and in their places only the extremely expensive patented drugs from pharmaceutical companies from the developed countries would become available. Such a situation, as they rightly apprehend, would amount virtually to death warrants for many HIV positive people in the country, for the drugs they need then would have shot up much beyond what most can afford.

For those who have already contracted the disease, the desperation is palpable. But after making sure their concern is addressed adequately in legitimate ways, such as by ensuring the government subsidises the patented drugs, or else making their makers lower prices considerably, the other side of the story cannot be forgotten. The generic drugs makers have done a good service in teaching the original makers of these same drugs the lesson that they cannot be only thinking of unjustified profits. However the fact also is, the generic drugs makers are themselves enormously profitable companies, making a killing from the inventions of others. To a very good extent, the generic drugs makers can price their brands of drugs much cheaper for they have not had to invest money in research and development which the original companies holding patent for these drugs have had to. In this sense, one suspects that the resistance being put up against the strict enforcement of the Intellectual Property Rights has tacit and perhaps even open sponsorship of the generic drugs making companies. The battle from this perspective is very much one of corporate contest for market control. The humanitarian and morality tale of making it easy for the terminally ill in their battle for life is thus only incidental in this script, although this is precisely the colour being attempted to be given, and quite successfully too, by one side of the corporate battle line.

We see justice in these matters somewhere in between the two standpoints. The patent holders cannot be allowed to price their goods unreasonably and the generic product makers should also be given the opportunity to patent their own products if they have introduced their own innovations to what they are copying, perhaps a lower grade patent in which they are required to pay some royalty to the original patent holders. The issue is quite similar to what is happening to the music industry or for that matter the computer software companies. Recoding and software companies, as long as they hold monopoly over their inventions, tend to price their products prohibitively and rob their hapless consumers. Piracy, unethical and unlawful as it may sound or actually is, has effectively tempered their greed. And now, in the age of the internet, and networking technology which enables peer to peer computer connectivity over the internet, music and movie files can easily be shared. Since digital copies of computer files are identical to the original, most of these recordings can be had without anybody having to buy them. The story of Napster is legendary. After Napster shut down following litigation from recording companies, other peer to peer file sharing platforms, in which unlike Napster there are no central servers, but each peer becomes the nodal point, took over. But the ever expanding cyber law has again begun to catch up, and one such extremely versatile file sharing network, Limewire, has been made to suspend its service until January 26 when its case would be heard in a US court. The moral of the story is curiously the same. Piracy effectively is a way of thumbing your nose at the greed of original inventors of market product, but uncontrolled piracy would also obviously kill innovation, for then innovation would no longer carry rewards attractive enough to fuel more innovations.


  1. It is profoundly disturbing to be bombarded by Manipuri disconnect. There is no national health service in India or regional health service in Manipur that provides even basic medical care to all citizens at first of point of contact. You never tried to build a nation fit for heroes. Why pretend that an EU treaty will have any affect on your abysmal care for any patient of any disease in Manipur.

    Doctors refuse to venture into village India. When I stayed in Nellikuduru I came across a young tribal amputee. For want of simple anti-biotics, a fall had led to septicaemia and finally an amputation. I tried unsuccessfully to get a prosthetic fitted with training on how to walk with one, the nearest clinic was in Hyderabad. But the fundamental problem was that the locals believed that it was a waste of money. 80% of Indians are considered sub-human so my money was put to better use.

    You do not currently support all HIV + patients with anti-retroviral drugs. The Manipuri disconnect is called psychosis in the West.

    When I was a CAT worker working with street homeless in London, I recall one middle age man who came to a drop-in daily to check when his quadruple bi-pass operation was due. It’s expensive equivalent of over a million rupees. But he had no money he just had to wait a few weeks and it would be free as would all the drug therapy. They call it the Welfare State. No one really thought anything odd about that. They would be shocked if you were to claim he was of too low a caste. When they say a Nation fit for Heroes it was describing the defeat of the Nazis and their view of world divided between a master race and sub-humans, the type of country India chose for itself after Independence created at the same time as the British National Health Service.

    You have imprisoned Irom Sharmila without trial for over ten years. But because you know that is wrong when it is reported scribes say things like, because the maximum sentence for attempted suicide is one year imprisonment she is released for a day each year and then rearrested and imprisoned so that her detention is legal. Does anyone believe that is legal in any system of justice.

    Low level magistrates are not expected to have integrity or rather integrity in India means something about maintaining land boundaries. When totalitarian regimes began misusing the preventative detention granted to protect the seriously mentally ill the World Health Organization brought out protocols of medical ethics requiring Doctors not to assist in the political detention and unnecessary treatment of political prisoners. The Malta protocols are the ones flouted in the case of Irom Sharmila by so called Manipuri Doctors. Or do they take the Hypocritical Oath in Manipur.

    Other scribes say we are protecting her because we love life and it’s the decent thing to do. But if it were decency that compels the State why is she kept in solitary confinement refused access to friends family even sunlight.

    After the release of Aung San Suu Kyi by the totalitarian Burmese regime scribes have taken to calling Sharmila’s detention without trial “House Arrest”. Suu Kyi was detained in her own house, hence the term house arrest. Irom Sharmila is kept in the security ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Science which is part of the main Imphal Prison, any prisoner could be admitted there if they required medical attention.

    The disconnect or psychosis when challenged tends to produce the final attack. Irom Sharmila is an dupe an unwilling agent of insert name of group as appropriate. But then when she is offfered another regional national or international peace prize, she is a hero again whom you are trying to protect. That’s the problem with disconnect or cognitive dissonance you are trying to hold two incompatible beliefs and only one is supported by the evidence.

    You pretend that you care about HIV+ clients. South Africa and the wicked multi-national companies had a four year court battle over the use of generic drugs for their own. Eventually the drug companies backed down the deal was ok if you want to treat your own poor you can have the drugs at cost price, you can even make generics if you don’t export them. The response of the South African Government was to say anti-retroviral drugs cause AIDS. AIDS has nothing to do with HIV. Keep your drugs.

    They didn’t want to pay for even the limited cost to keep their sub-humans alive. http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/apr2001/aids-a21.shtml I am sure some Manipuri will comment that I have lowered the tone and written off topic. The point is you live in psychotic fantasy. If someone tries to untie you and get you to leave the cave. And that person I accept is Sharmila obviously you will try to tie them up punish them and eventually kill them. But she has faith in her people still. And I have faith in her.

    When you no longer live in disconnect. Life decisions become far simpler.


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