Saturday, June 17, 2006

What it is to be Free

Just before I left Australia I had a conversation with a good friend made about the Middle East. She said that she loved to be Australian because she was free. I was puzzled by the comment in its context and asked what she meant. I think all my friends in the Middle East, in Syria and Jordan and Egypt - think they are free. Those friends who live in Palestine - well, perhaps not.

My friend pointed out that she could go wherever she chose and vote for whoever she wanted, and that she was free.

Tabbi was talking to a friend of ours in Syria. He makes perfume. Name it - whatever major perfume you like, and he mixes a copy for $2 a 150ml bottle. We watched in amazement as he took out an identical bottle to a very well known perfume, added oils and essences and an alcohol base for an eau-de-toilette, and sprayed some into the air to check it. He then added a hint of colouring so it looked the same as the original. He carefully resealed the top, and took out a flat sheet of cardboard which, before out amazed eyes, became the original printed packaging for htis known brand. When we asked where he got the bottle and box he just smiled. He then sealed the box into crisp trimmed cellophane. At this point I would have bought this perfume in any duty-free in the world without a hesitation. He then reached into a drawer and pulled out a narrow roll of tape. With one finger he peeled off something transparent and carefully fixed it onto the bottom of the package. Then he twisted the pack around so we ccould see it.

It was a barcode, printed on a tiny transparent sticky label.

We watched in a mixture or flabbergasted awe and horror at blatant ignorance of the international laws of copyright!

When my daughter Tabbi was in Syria my friendly perfumier mentioned to her that he would like to open a perfume shop in Australia. She and Peter were travelling together, and both are law students. Wondering how to put it tactfully, Peter said "I think you might have some trouble with copyright."

He said, "Copyright, copyright, copyright. You think you are so free in the west. In Syria we have three rules.

One, do not talk about the government.

Two, no guns.

Three, (and he tapped his nose) no cocaine, no drugs.

In Syria we are free. You are not free. You have copyright."

This sort of copying is not illegal in Syria and all sorts of things including music are copied and sold. It is horrifying to us, but they see nothing wrong with it at all as there is no law against it, and no feeling that it is in any way wrong.

It made me think about what freedom is to other people though.


Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Hi Jenny,

I have not been near the computer for several days and so have just caught up with your last 3 postings. Great to hear from you as usual, I love the story about the cat. I wish I had your talent for writing, you make every little and big thing sound so interesting.

Cheers Helen

3:28 pm  
Blogger Sande said...

From an artist who has to always be concerned about copyright on many levels...very interesting article. Something to think about.

10:30 am  
Blogger Nicky said...

Very thought provoking post. The whole idea of "freedom" is one that people need to consider. It has been said that only those who are not free have a concept of freedom. Those who are truly free don't need the concept. Regarding copyright, I agree that this is a hot issue for artists and can be very hard to prove especially as there are "no new things under the sun". I wonder what Syrian artists think about people making money from copying their art?

10:11 pm  
Blogger Pennie & David said...

Jenny, I've been mulling, and worrying over this post for a few days now, I was talking it over with David when he remembered an old phrase 'the rule of law'. No country can have freedon till they have a 'rule of law'. That says it all for me.
Thanks for a very thought provoking post.
cheers Pennie

9:20 am  
Blogger brdhsbldr said...

A very thought provoking post.
Freedom is a very "broad" word.
The United States, whose people like to speak of their freedoms, was begun by people chafing under the rules of Great Britain, whose people probably considered themselves free. Things in America have changed greatly since their ancesters threw the tea in Boston Harbour, and where those of my ancesters from England can be traced through those who baked or brewed without being members of the appropriate guild we in the New World now have many rules and liscences required to function "freely" here.
It would seem that the more people involved the more laws required just so we don't step on eachothers toes.

5:06 am  
Anonymous Kristin La Flamme said...

Freedom seems to be a double edged sword. Who suffers at another's "freedom? Business might be good for the Syrian perfumiere, or the Macedonian DVD bootlegger, but the artists suffer. I've had interesting conversations with my German neighbors about the "Land of the Free" lately. Like teenagers who must get a hall pass in school to use the toilet, have curfews because of various forms of lawlessness, are hampered in their movements by the lack of good public transportation in many cities, etc. The German exchange students seem to sigh in relief when they return to their homeland. Movement seems more free here in Europe than in the States where fear (if only fear of lawsuits) seems to hamper the freedom of many. Thanks for a thought provoking post.

4:26 pm  
Blogger vs-f said...

Actually, the faux perfume violates trademark law rather than copyright. But in any case, the old rule of thumb is that a country will not respect others' intellectual-property rights until that country has IP of its own worth protecting.

5:08 am  

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