As someone who hopes to earn a passable living through scribbled stories, I have taken an unusually keen interest in Guyana’s recent copyright brouhaha. The government of the chaotic South American nation recently had the audacity to declare that it would be purchase all its school textbooks from local pirates, who could offer far better deals than the Macmillans of the world. Guyana backed off a bit when the threat of legal action was raised, but the gambit nevertheless ended up having the desired effect, as big publishing companies were cajoled into offering steep discounts:
Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon is expected to Wednesday announce that cabinet has offered its no-objection to purchase original textbooks from seven publishers for more than GUY$170 million, Education Minister Priya Manickchand told Demerara Waves Online News.
Manickchand said that while Guyana has been able to obtain a 50 percent reduction from Macmillan and 60 percent from Nelson Thorne, government would still be unable to procure all of the required textbooks. Originally, Macmillan had offered little more than 20 percent discount and Nelson Thorne 30 percent until negotiations were held with senior officials of those companies. “Now we are dealing with the big boys in these companies, they have given us massive discounts, discounts that even had my head spinning,” she said.
In other words, the publishers blinked because they understand how little leverage they ultimately hold over a vast number of nations—or, for that matter, over the international bodies that are supposed to enforce copyright norms. If Guyana had decided to opt for piracy, how much damage could the publishers really have done by pursuing legal remedies? It’s tough to deter the desperate in situations such as these.