x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A hub for creativity must protect ideas

Immanuel Kant didn't care if his words were stolen. We can't afford to be so blase about theft of intellectual property.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant thought that an author's words were always his own. It mattered not whether another had copied or benefited from them. To an extent, he was right: the reward of writing is derived from the act of creation and from the bond between an author and the reader. Of course, by the time Kant wrote this, he had a cushy professorship. Most writers are not so lucky and yet they have to eat and pay their bills.
From novels, to textbooks, to training manuals, the region's lax enforcement of copyright laws discourages young people from pursing a writing career or working in many other creative professions. The piracy of books, music, and digital media stymies both cultural and economic development. As the president of Rotana Digital Entertainment Yousef Mugharbil told The National last month, for every dollar his company makes, they lose a dollar to piracy. "It's a serious problem for us in many countries through the Middle East. All the laws are put in place but they are not implemented."
For its part, the UAE is becoming a regional leader in strengthening its antipiracy laws and enforcing them. There are pirates serving sentences in UAE jails. Last year there were several police raids on suspected warehouses and workshops of pirates in the country. It is vital for the nation to increase these efforts. The country is intent on building a knowledge economy and serving as a nexus between the East and West, Islam and modernity. To be an "ideas capital" and a hub for creativity, the country must protect creative work and intellectual property. Individuals too must be made aware of the knock-on effects of buying pirated products. The savings from purchasing pirated products is more than just small change. But these purchases serve to limit the change and competition that drive new ideas. Each nation must play a part in ensuring that the laws and practices of the global economy prize innovation over imitation.