The Accidental Plagiarist: The Trouble with Originality

by Erik Campbell

I. We Few, We Hapless Few
Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory is too good.
—Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

There comes a point in many a person’s life when things that Nietzsche said begin to make good sense.

This is not necessarily a propitious sign. Understanding or simply identifying with Nietzsche doesn’t typically fill one’s life with joy; it can make a mess of one’s love life, make one speak in intelligent-sounding but laceratingly depressing epigrams, and give one the urge to sign missives as “Dionysus” or “The Damned.”

I recall the day when I finally understood one of Nietzsche’s statements which had previously baffled me, one which Harold Bloom is fond of quoting. To wit: “There is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking.” What happened was, I was talking one evening to a co-worker about the war in Iraq and, after explaining why I think we should get out of there fast, he suggested the following: “We should just nuke the whole goddamn country. What’s Iraq? Desert. We nuke the whole goddamn country and turn the desert to glass. Then our troops just have to look down and find the oil. Easy. It’s all about easy extraction.”[1] Then he laughed and slapped my back in solidarity. That laugh, I thought, is the sound of hope losing its feathers.

Read more…

A great read  – specially in the light of the current broadsheet.


May 31, 2007 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

Remix Theory

Generally speaking, remix culture can be defined as the global activity consisting of the creative and efficient exchange of information made possible by digital technologies that is supported by the practice of cut/copy and paste. The concept of Remix often referenced in popular culture derives from the model of music remixes which were produced around the late 1960s and early 1970s in New York City, an activity with roots in Jamaica’s music.[1] Today, Remix (the activity of taking samples from pre-existing materials to combine them into new forms according to personal taste) has been extended to other areas of culture, including the visual arts; it plays a vital role in mass communication, especially on the Internet.”

A good resource site with many interesting links and possibilities of remix..

April 19, 2007 at 7:01 am Leave a comment

Uncreative Writing

posted on reader-list by Vivek Narayan
I hadn't read this blog before the remix workshop, but it might be 
interesting to read in light of those issues, re: text.

Kenneth Goldsmith is one of the more somewhat interesting conceptual 
poets, and also also the big brains behind the brilliant, resource-heavy 
site for avant garde poetry, sound poetry, visual ("concrete") poetry, 
experimental film and music, Ubuweb ( ) with some of the 
best free ( film, sound, etc) downloads around. This is is week-long 
blog for the Poetry Foundation, one of the oldest, most hallowed, 
moss-encrusted institutions / journals for poetry in the US. Goldsmith 
happily describes himself as "the most boring writer that has ever lived".

But the question for me is, what next after this? Do we see these 
experiments in text as the final limit and retreat back, or go beyond 
them? I like Goldsmith's idea for his students that these practices 
should be seen as part of a toolkit, which is then put to *use* in 
various ways. [Even though he seems to see that as second prize.] How do 
we make use of these practices? I do not buy the avant-garde defence 
that these experiments will "by themselves", by their very formal 
existence, bring about change. In fact, despite the extremity and daring 
of these poetic experiments, they also conceal, like much experimental 
art, a deeper *"safeness"*, which actually prepares them nicely for 
gradual incorporation into the institutions and practices of power. 
(Andy Warhol left a legacy picked up, in circular fashion, by 
contemporary advertising; Goldsmith is a well-couched professor at the 
University of Pennsylvania; Christian Bok's project has received 
thousands of dollars in funding because it does not, eventually, as far 
as I can see, pose any fundamental challenge to the discipline of 
biology, and because it has many mainstream applications.)

For a quick read, here are some excerpts from this blog:

*(From "Tuesday")*

"I teach a class at the University of Pennsylvania called “Uncreative 
Writing,” which is a pedagogical extension of my own poetics. In it, 
students are penalized for showing any shred of originality and 
creativity. Instead, they are rewarded for plagiarism, identity theft, 
repurposing papers, patchwriting, sampling, plundering, and stealing. 
Not surprisingly, they thrive. Suddenly, what they’ve surreptitiously 
become expert at is brought out into the open and explored in a safe 
environment, reframed in terms of responsibility instead of recklessness."

For the full text, go to


February 11, 2007 at 4:01 pm Leave a comment

A brief note on the “Do We Need Remix?” workshop

Do We Need Remix? – A Tactical Exploration Through Play With Media Materials

26th, 27th January 2007
Creative Commons (India Chapter) launch at IIT – Bombay.

Workshop facilitated by a team from Sarai CSDS (Mrityunjay Chatterjee, Priya Sen, Amitabh Kumar, Aarti Sethi, Bhagwati Prasad and Iram Ghufran)

For concept note, see

The main aim of the workshop was to arouse a certain curiosity about cultural materials and possibilities for their creative re- use. At the end of two days, it was hoped, that the participants would have produced something – text, audio, image work, which would then be released under a CC license.

The workshop was held in the Industrial Design Lab with support from Prof Shishir Jha and student volunteers from SOM – Sridhar Narsimhan, Vikas Iyer.
We had access to computers, software, still cameras and MP3 recorders. There were about 31 students primarily from engineering colleges in Raipur, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Nasik, Bikaner, Lucknow and Kathmandu.

Chirayu Shah, Patel Sagar, Kumar Paudel, Bikash Agrawal, Bikram Acharya, Prabhash Jha, Shashikanth Sharma, Hrishikesh Chelmella, Aniruddha Sharma, Mohd Mohsin Khan, Subin Shreshta, Praveen Sridhar, S Prasantha, Ritika Gupta, Rudra Iyer, Bishal Kumar Singh, Devedra Kumar Tiwari, Nitin Dewmgam, Pritha Singh Thakur, Laxmi Sharma, Antas Misra, Dinesh Kumar, Devendra Chtale, rohit Maddineni, Siddesh Kumbhar, Priyanka P, A Saujanya, M Anand, S Ashutosh, Anil Gupta, Abhinav Kumar

Day One

The workshop began with a brief welcome note and an introduction to Sarai and Sarai’s interest and work in the area of cultural/ knowledge commons. Bhagwati Prasad gave a brief historical background of remix music in India. We showed some examples of remix – being used creatively in the Sarai Media Lab and elsewhere. This was a fairly good session as the comfort factor rose dramatically, we had a pretty lively discussion on ‘the’ Creative Commons, public domain, and re- purposing etc. There was a lot of talk about remix and music, which I guess would be the most obvious association and perhaps the most recognized instance of ‘remix’ and cultural appropriation.

There were 6 teams. A lot of participants knew each other becuase they were from the same colleges or cities. Some people were very sure about what they wished to do, while some were uncertain. We had clarified in the beginning that making something was not mandatory and that if people just wish to have a conversations, they were welcome to do so but all the teams wished to produce something by the end of the workshop.

This day was spent largely in discussions and gathering of material (sound recording, photographs, web downloads). A lot of people were still undecided about the final form of their projects. Sound and specially music related ideas were more popular. Participants were open to new ideas and came up with interesting and ambitious project plans, which due to a constraint of time were simplified. Later, a lot of students attended the CC launch.

The CC launch was attended by many of the participants and the talks by some of the speakers were helpful in clarifying issues.

Day Two

We began by showing some remixed videos accessed from Lawrence Liang of ALF

1) Asian Backstreet Boys
2) ALF’s Kal Ho Na Ho
3) IIT Madras’ version of Van Halen’s Right Now + The original Van Halen
4) ALFs campaign video – Brokeback Bharat (based on the trailer of Brokeback Mountain)

These we hoped would give a bright start to the morning and will act as interesting and creative instances of appropriation of cultural materials. The videos were quite a hit with the participants and we had a brief discussion thereafter.

This was a busy day as there was lots to do and there were quite a few unforeseen hic ups – such as missing cables, crashing software and unsaved projects that were either deleted or lost when the computer decided to not to cooperate! We finally worked on four projects. The facilitators circulated among the teams, largely helping with tech, having individual discussions on the project concepts, answering queries about CC, IP, Sarai, etc

The Four projects are:

1) Bollywood Calender:
This team earlier wanted to work on fashion – and changing trends/ styles etc but the idea was pretty vague and they were also not fully convinced by it. The project finally evolved into the Bollywood Calendar project. This is largely a photoshop work, wherein the team has used the software to create calendar pages, designed as film poster pages. They selected films , whose remakes have been made and combined the posters of the old and new films into one to create 12 separate pages for the 12 months of the calendar.
2) Piggi’s day
This team wanted to work with images set to multiple tracks of film music. They spent a lot of time on internet, looking at images and finally decided to work with a animated set of pig images – which they set to music. The short video depicts a day in the life of a pig with popular Bollywood songs acting as a second layer.
3) ‘main engineer kyon banna chahta tha…’
This group worked with photographs and images of the Internet set to music, depicting the trials and tribulations of being an engg student.
4) On Friendship
This team created a power point presentation with photographs of friends from Nepal, set the pictures to music and an edited audio track of vox pop on friendship done on the IIT campus.

By 5:30 four projects were done. They were well liked by everyone and showed a lot of promise among the young creators. There was general bonhomie, lot of photos were clicked, email addresses were taken down for the Sarai newsletter 🙂

Meanwhile, the Sarai team also made some simple posters – printouts on A3 sheets that we put up on the main techfest area – on notice boards, walls, trees etc along with some broadsheets.

Poster 01
– “asal, nakal, shakal, pehchan kaun
CD jalaile, jigar se
jigar maa bari aag hai
copy. share. distribute”

Poster 02 (from Cybermohalla)
– This book is yours. Agreed. But what about its shadow?

Poster 03 (from Cybermohalla)
– If a shadow of the photographer had fallen on you, then whose image would we have called it.

“Remix” as a theme for this workshop worked because it had some recognition value – students had an opinion on remix – even if it was – “I like remix music. Its cool”. I think we did manage arouse curiosity, raise important questions and create a certain awareness within the students of their own capacities and possibilities of their computers, labs, still cameras, MP3 recorders etc.

We’ll upload the works on creative dot and the new sarai website. Soon 🙂

– Iram

February 4, 2007 at 8:16 pm 7 comments

Thoughts on Remix

== Remix is of the many creative processes, which come in conflict with understood (under IPR) notions of authorship and originality.
== One of the ways to use existing cultural materials and forms to create new
and distinct ones – that carry echoes of the ‘original’
== One of the many processes that allow a user to be more than  a mere
recipient of cultural material, that allow a user to be a creative producer.
== A process that makes way for a cultural material to have another life –
perhaps a more challenging and perhaps a heretical one.
== Remix is the coming together of two/ or more independent materials or forms.
== Remix can be a conscious media practice.
== Remix is an attitude to materials.

Remix is NOT:

– pastiche
– re- cycling
– remodeling
– refashioning
– jugaad
– recension
– version
– copy
– duplicate
– intextuality
– repurposing
– remake

It is, perhaps a combination of some/all of the above.

Below are some questions that could be explored/ thought about:

Is remix always a subversive process – falling in the grey zone – between legalities?

Is Re- mixing three sets of music pieces after taken author permissions and paying royalties, ‘remix’?

Do the possibilities of the process of remixing outweigh its processual charm?

Can we define remix? Can we fix the boundaries of this form and make
rules for entry/ exit?  Or is remix  a process that allows itself to be
constantly reinvented, remodeled, refashioned?

What are the terms of the relationship between remix and technology?

I think we all know the answer to this. ‘Remix’ in the years when a DJ would
scratch an LP record and create live remix, was different from a time and
process when new beats could be added analogously to older music tracks,
which again was different from a time and process, when film clips could be
cut easily using non professional software to create another, perhaps
subversive audio- video material.

So,  I guess my question would be how necessary is the ‘scratch’ in remix?

And lastly,  As media practitioners, how far can we push the boundaries of the form of remix?


February 4, 2007 at 7:40 pm Leave a comment

A letter to the inhabitants if the ‘legal’ commons

[This letter is based on discussions at a workshop that took place
at Waag Society in Amsterdam last may and has been published in the
(Shade of the Commons reader —
For a list of the participants of the Workshop see below. The letter
was drafted by Shuddhabrata Sengupta (Sarai)].

Dear Inhabitants of the ‘legal’ Commons,

Greetings ! This missive arrives at your threshold from the proverbial
Asiatic street, located in the shadow of an improvised bazaar, where
all manner of oriental pirates and other dodgy characters gather to
trade in what many amongst you consider to be stolen goods. We call
them ‘borrowed’ goods. But a difference in the language in which one
talks about things (‘stolen’ vs, ‘borrowed’) is a also a measure of
the distance between two different worlds.

You can only steal something if it is owned by someone in the first
place. If things are not ‘owned’ but only held in custody, then they
can only be ‘borrowed’ as opposed to being stolen. So what you call a
‘pirated’ DVD is what we would call a DVD ‘borrowed’ from the street,
and the price we pay for it is equivalent, or at least analogous to an
incremental subscription to the great circulating public library of
the Asiatic street.

We address this, written in the precincts of that library, to all you
who enjoy the salubrious comfort of the legal commons, especially the
one that calls itself ‘creative’. We have occasionally stepped into
your enclosures, and have fond memories of our forays. However, our
sojourns in your world have of necessity had to be brief. Before long,
we have been asked about our provenance, our intent, our documents.
There has rarely been enough paper for us to prove that we had the
right of way.

We appreciate and admire the determination with which you nurture
your garden of licences. The proliferation and variety of flowering
contracts and clauses in your hothouses is astounding. But we find
the paradox of a space that is called a commons and yet so fenced in,
and in so many ways, somewhat intriguing. The number of times we had
to ask for permission, and the number of security check posts we had
to negotiate to enter even a corner of your commons was impressive.
And each time we were at an exit we were thoroughly searched, just in
case we had not pilfered something, or left some trace of a noxious
weed by mistake into your fragile ecosystem. Sometimes, we found that
when people spoke of ‘Common Property’ it was hard to know where the
commons ended and where property began.

Most of all, we were amazed by the ingenuity (and diligence) you
display in upholding the norm that mandates that unless something
had been named explicitly as part of the ‘commons’ by it’s rightful
owner, it is somehow out of bounds to everyone else. Hitherto, our
understanding of the word you use, ‘the commons’, had suggested to us
that it indicated a space where people could take according to their
desires and contribute according to their capacities. This implied a
relationship essentially between people, founded on a more or less
taken for granted ethic of reciprocity, in the sense that what goes
around, eventually comes around. However, in the space you designate
as ‘commons’, we found that the rule is – take in accordance to the
label on the thing that you encounter, and give according to the
measure of the licence you prefer.

This indicated that a relationship between people, was somehow
replaced by a relationship between people and the things that these
people owned, inherited, or had created. It meant being told that we
could access something only if the owner said we could. This meant
that the song or the story or the idea that had no label on it was not
for the taking. We have to admit that this did feel a bit suffocating,
because it was a bit like rationing the air you breathe according to
whether or not you had the right to breathe freely.

Strangely, the capacity to name something as ‘mine’, even if in
order to ‘share’ it, requires a degree of attainments that is not in
itself evenly distributed. Not everyone comes into the world with the
confidence that anything is ‘theirs’ to share. This means, that the
‘commons’ in your parlance, consists of an arrangement wherein only
those who are in the magic circle of confident owners effectively
get a share in that which is essentially, still a configuration of
different bits of fenced in property. What they do is basically effect
a series of swaps, based on a mutual understanding of their exclusive
propreitary rights. So I give you something of what I own, in exchange
for which, I get something of what you own. The good or item in
question never exits the circuit of property, even, paradoxically when
it is shared. Goods that are not owned, or those that have been taken
outside the circuit of ownership, effectively cannot be shared, or
even circulated.

Where does this leave those who have no property to begin with?
Perhaps, with even less than what they might have in a scenario
where there was some comfort in being able to make do with bits and
pieces broken off, copied and patched together and then circulated,
essentially by people who had no prior claim to cultural property or
patrimony. You see, we undertook our education in the public library
of the street, in the archive of the sidewalk. Here, our culture, came
to us in the form of faded and distressed copies, not all wrapped and
ribboned with licenses. We took what we could, when we could, where we
could. Had we waited to take what we were permitted to ‘share’ in, we
would never have gotten very far, because no one would have recognized
our worth as ‘shareholders’. Our attainments were not built with the
confidence that comes from knowing that you have a right to own what
you know, and a duty to know what you own.

Your ‘commons’ is not a place that we can share in easily. Because,
often, when you ask us for what we ‘own’, we have to turn away from
your enquiring gaze. We own very little, and the little that we own
is itself often under dispute, because no one has bothered to keep a
detailed enough record of provenances. In these circumstances, if we
had listen to your stipulation to share only that which we own, hardly
anything would have been passed around. And for life to continue,
things have to pass around. So we share a lot of things that we have
never owned. They are ‘borrowed’.

You call this piracy. Perhaps it is piracy. But we have to think of
consequences. The consequences of absences of the infrastructures
that make a culture of sharing that is also a culture of legality
possible. In the absence of those infrastructures, we have to rely on
other mechanisms. When you do not have a public library, you have to
invent one on the street, with all the books that you can muster, with
everything you can beg,or borrow. Or steal.

All we ask, dear inhabitants of the ‘legal’ commons, is for you to let
us be. To be a little cautious before you condemn us. A world without
our secret public libraries would be a poorer world. It would be a
world in which very few people read very few books, and only those who
could own things were the ones who could share them. It would also
mean a world in which, eventually, very few people write books. So
instead of more, there would in the end be less culture to go around.
The more you own, the less you can share.

All we ask is for a little time. It has not yet been conclusively
proven that the culture of ‘borrowing’ which you happen to call
‘piracy’ has only negative consequences for the production of culture.
It has also not yet been proven that one must necessarily read
negative consequences for culture from negative consequences for the
balance sheets of the culture industry. Until such time that this is
done, please let us be.

Learn about us by all means if you must, argue with us by all means,
but do not rush to destroy the wilderness we inhabit. We admire your
carefully cultivated garden. We know it is not easy for you to let us
enter that space. We understand and respect that. We do not ask to
be appreciated in return for the fact that we prefer hiding in the
undergrowth of culture. All we ask for is the benevolence of your
indifference. That will do for now.

We remain, yours

Denizens of Non Legal Commons, and those who travel to and from them

[Based on discussions among: Shaina Anand, Namita Malhotra, Paul
Keller, Lawrence Liang, Bjorn Wijers, Patrice Riemens, Monica Narula,
Rasmus Fleischer, Palle Torsson, Jan Gerber, Sebastian Luttgert, Toni
Prug, Vera Franz, Konrad Becker & Tabatabai]

January 25, 2007 at 6:35 am Leave a comment

for a HISTORY OF REMIX – Bhagwati Prasad


Around 1967 a big population staying in the jhuggies at Sant Nagar in South Delhi was uprooted and resettled at a plot adjacent to Madipur Gaon in West Delhi. The area came to be known as Madipur JJ Colony and was divided into 6 blocks, A, B, C, D, E and F. Now began a struggle to reorient oneself in a new land, a new place. Most of the people staying here come from Rajasthan and belong to the lower classes and Scheduled Castes and Tribes – Sindhi Meghwal Khatik (Rajasthan), Jatav Khatik (Mathura), Berwas and the Valmiki castes. The Raigar Sindhis and the Jatav castes were primarily in the shoe trade. The Khatik Jatav castes either dealt in scrap or repaired pressure cookers. The Valmikis were involved in sanitation work. Every lane had a majority of one caste or the other. Apart from a market there were broad streets and a park in every block. This is a demographic portrait of the old Madipur.

It has been 30 years since this place came up. Change is now evident in every block, market, house and road. With the growing requirements of people, the space allocated by the government has gone up from 22 yard plots to 25/30 yard plots. Houses adjacent to the roads have been converted into shops. These dwellings have expanded not only laterally but also upwards, single stories being built up into 4 and 5 story houses. On each floor, at least 5 -8 people stay as tenants. The growing population contributes not only to the local housing but to the expanding market economy as well.

In the market one notices that along with shops catering to daily needs there are a variety of others ranging from shoe repair to media goods. Shops selling audio cassettes are prominent. Interestingly, each looks different from the the other, due to competition. Apart from filmi and non filmi tapes, these shops stock cassettes in Garwali, Kumaoni, Nepali, Rajasthani, Bhojpuri, Punjabi and other languages, catering to the variety of people who have come to stay here. Shopkeepers talked about the changes in the market and the technology and the ups and downs in their business. They provide interesting stories about the new trends coming up in the music markets.

Although these people are not highly educated, they can understand the ebb and flow of the market. So far they have survived these swings. How the changes in the relations between shopkeepers, companies, suppliers, local consumers and law enforcers affect the nature of the market only the future will tell us.

History of Remix

‘Presenting old songs in a new package’ is how one may attempt to define remix music \x{2013} just like old wine in a new bottle. In recent years, remix culture has dominated the Indian music industry to an extent that it has become more popular than film songs and the singers. Because of the revealing videos that the songs accompany, a section of society calls it a ‘vulgar’ and unacceptable, and therefore is asking for a ban on such songs. However, the younger generation is increasing enjoying these songs. The history of Indian music reveals that the ‘remix’ is at least 20 years old. It may be divided into following 4 stages:

Stage One: begins around 1983 when old songs were given new voices. T-Series was the most prominent company which began remixing. The cassette covers of remix songs  carried the photos of the main singers like Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, and others, and along with them, smaller photos of  new singers like Kumar Shanu, Sonu Nigam, and others were printed. The cassette titles used to be – ‘In Memory of Md. Rafi’, ‘In Memory of Kishore’, ‘Melodies of Mukesh’, etc. Thus the new singers got a good publicity.

Second Stage: The songs were the same but they were given new dimensions. Disco beats were added to the songs which attracts the listener even today. These disco beats were popularised as \x{201C}jhankar beats’came in vogue around 1987. No matter who the original singers were, mixing beats with the music became a fashion. This concept became so popular that even the film audio cassettes started including ‘Jhankar Beats’.

Stage Three: It began around 1990. Use of western pop became very widespread. The names of the singers and the tunes became secondary and were replaced by the creators of new tunes. Cassettes began to be sold in their name. One of them was ‘Bali Sagu’. It was a new experiment and became popular. It influenced the films after a few years.
All songs of films began to be remixed. For Instance, the remixed versions of songs from the films ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’, ‘Taal’, ‘Pardes’, etc, became very popular.

Stage Four: or the present phase can be called the Golden Age of remix culture. The songs have fast beats and lot of western music. From big and small parties, hotels to marriage barats, etc, special DJ’s are organised for people to dance to their tunes. The bridegroom’s side even demands for a DJ along with other things. Keeping these demands in view, the music companies have begun  remixing beats with english expressions which helplessly forces people to shake a leg or two. But in the present stage the credit of ‘hit’ remixes goes to their video.

The songs are known more by the models acting in them rather than by their singers or music composers. The remix video age has, on the one hand, given a new life to Indian music industry, and on the other hand, has invited the accusations of the Indian culture having been ‘distorted’ and ‘vulgar’.

Remix Video

Now-a-days the music channels are full of remix videos. If we try to understand the processes of making video, then we will be able to understand the reasons for their popularity. Actually, most of the people who are working in the remix video industry were earlier in the field of advertising. Therefore they very well know what appeals to  the different tastes of the different customers. They understand the range of images which can exactly stay with the audiences for a long time. Thus, they began making use of their own creativity and imagination to the best of their ability. The remix video has gripped the minds of the people \x{2013} especially the young. Popular Videos have those images/ scenes which the targetted audience can identify with and also eagerly wish to see.

For Instance, the scenes like the lowering of jeans in the ‘Kaanta Lagaa…’, wet bodies of the girls, beer bars, pubs, restaurant, bear-bar, etc. Actually, three or four female models are selected, locations and lyrics are fixed and the videos are made. Then these remix videos are aired on almost all TV channels and their market is created.

‘Kaanta Lagaa…’!, how deep?

The remixed song \x{2013} ‘Kaanta Lagaa…  released last year (2003) by T-Series has taken  today’s remix music to new heights. The song’s popularity has has not just seen the restlessmess in the minds/hearts and of its targetted audience, but another section of the society has also objected to it; and therefore the Information and Broadcasting Ministry notified five music channels to prohibit airing it. Yet, there has been no reduction in the popularity of this cassette. Not only this; its words and tunes have been used for other seasonal songs. For example, its tune and wordings were used to inspire the Kanwariyas in August: ‘Kaanta Lagaa…’ became ‘Ghonta Lagaa…’! Then, during Janmashtami, it became ‘Taala Khulaa…’  In October 2003 was released a bhajan ‘Mela Lagaa…’ which topped the Navaratra market. Then there was comedy song ‘Chaanta Lagaa…’, equally enjoyed by its listeners. The new year and Holi are yet to come. We are likely to see new versions of this cassette. The ‘Kaanta’ is so deep that it has caused a boom in this type of video albums. A new tradition has been laid down in the music industry, opening new channels for garnering bigger profits.


Pirated Compact Discs are also called copied or ‘fake’ CDs in the local jargon. There is a boom nowadays in the CD markets. Traditionally, Lajpat Rai Market and Palika in Connaught Place have been considered the hub of ‘pirated cds’. Not any more. People can find CDs in the market places nearby at much cheaper rates and these smaller markets have taken over the work from the bigger centralised markets and are conducting the trade with a lot of tactical intelligence. The work has become a cottage industry in these localities. The economy operates according to the rules of demand and supply. This is also turning out to be an industry with small investments and high returns, due to the fact that the equipment required is available at very low costs:
A blank CD \x{2013} Rs.3 to7.
An old computer \x{2013} Rs.10 to 15, 000.
A copy writer to copy CDs: Rs.4 to 5000/-.
Copy writers for 2 to 5 copies: Rs.20 to 25,000/-
Copy writers for 5 to 10 copies: Rs.25 to 30,000/-

Add Rs.2 to 3 for printing film labels. Audio-tape covers for the films provide readymade material. The most essential item is the master copy. This is duplicated as soon as the prints are released and is easily available for about 2000/-. Now a pirated CD is ready. With markets opening up closer to your place, all you have to do is to take the CDs to the shop. You park your vehicle away from the shop, show the product, fix the price and take the orders. Then, at a fixed time you make the delivery and come back on another day for the money. Where the deliveryman goes after that is anybody\x{2019}s guess.

Bargaining is crucial in retail sales as well. The customers know when a movie will be available, go to the shop on the expected day of release and get the CD, or rent it out to have a look. So a whole trade network has emerged around entertainment which involves makers, deliverymen, retailers and customers.

MP3 CD is a new, commonly available CD in which about 150 songs are recorded with the help of computers and converted into a special CD. Today these CD s have posed serious competition to the market for original CDs, since they are available at one third the price of an original CD. These CDs have not only affected the market of the audio CDs but also the market for the music systems. All the major companies manufacturing music systems have started including an MP3 player in their machines and try to keep prices low because of competition from the cheap systems now available in the market.

Raid in Madipur

The Madipur Village lies adjacent to the Madipur Colony. Of course, it doesn’t look like a village at all. There are tall buildings, tarred, broad roads, and several factories. Perhaps it can be said that the existence of factories is the sole logic for the construction of buildings. The factories produce hosiery, shirts, trousers etc.

Factory workers live in this village. Some have taken houses on rent, and others live in the factories. Sundays are off, and so the day for relaxing, roaming around. But Saturday nights have a different importance altogether. That’s the time for watching films.

The cassette shops here rent out some cassettes, but mostly CDs. Every shopkeeper/owner possesses five to six video CD players. And business is best on Saturday evenings. A set-up comprising a VCD player, a colour television and four movies is rent out at rates between Rs. 120 and 150.

There was a police raid here a few days ago. All the shopkeepers were apprehended and asked to pay up Rs. 5000. At first, the shop keepers refused. But there was little they could do. The police simply stated that not only do you not have licenses to run video parlours, but moreover you rent out pirated VCDs. If you don’t pay up, we’ll confiscate all your material.

What could the shop keepers do? They all handed over the five thousand rupees without another moment’s hesitation.

Among the shopkeeeprs is Mohd. Faizal. He said, “At least this will get the policemen to leave us in peace”. According to him, the maximum earning is from the Blue Film VCDs, because those are usually carried home along with one or two other VCDs. And Blue Film CDs also get sold. That’s why, he says, we don’t want to close shop.

“Four to five rentals every night mean an earning of Rs. 600. And all the material returns to the shop by morning. Why would we want to close a business such as this?”

This much is clear that the police is aware of the weak links in this business, and uses them to its advantage to earn money. But the shop keepers also know that if they have to continue their business, they will have to bear with these small injuries.

January 23, 2007 at 5:26 pm Leave a comment

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