I was browsing for DVDs on a cold winter afternoon in one of Beijing’s finer bootleg shops when I came upon three boxed sets of DVDs critical of communism. One of the pirated sets, produced by Turkish presenter Harun Yahya, promised to detail the horrors of communism from an Islamic perspective, another by an American producer chronicled the uncomfortably bloody rise of modern China and the third contained Tiananmen footage from BBC TV News. Presumably the DVD pirates were in it for the money, but were they also unwittingly making China a freer place?
The underground network and commercial resourcefulness of the pirates makes it technically possible for startling and truthful images to be sold more or less in the open in a less-than-open-society. In that sense, lax enforcement of intellectual copyright may inadvertently engender a kind of information freedom and even allow for the infiltration of revolutionary ideas.
If so, then the copyright zealots, mostly big US companies, with profit first and foremost on the mind, come down firmly on the side of information control and in that sense side firmly with the Beijing authorities. Subversive access of the sort I had just tapped into would dry up if US anti-piracy efforts were successful.
Read all of Banned and Bootlegged in Beijing.
This is why intellectual freedom is a crucial part of constructive engagement.