A confession

6th September, 2006

Dear Economist

A friend of mine was recently in Mumbai where many pirated books from the west were on sale on the street. Along with Harry Potter, there was The Undercover Economist, priced at 3.95 rupees.

It was clearly a counterfeit – it is printed on inferior paper and smells rather gratifyingly of printer’s ink. Knowing that it was a breach of copyright, should my friend have bought the book, thus aiding and abetting a criminal act and depriving you of your royalty? And after my friend had bought it, should I have accepted the gift? And having accepted and read it, should I send you your royalty payment? I have the book and cannot find the chapter which answers this.

Christopher Hird, London

Encl: photograph of counterfeit book

Dear Mr Hird,

Faced with this kind of illegal competition, the publishers tend to move upmarket, offering higher prices and higher quality and presuming that they will not be able to beat the counterfeiters on price. (The illicit copy cost about five pence – less even than my miserly royalty.) Those with scruples lose out, as do I and the publishers.

But that can hardly be your concern. Even though the cheap version is inferior, it is a similar product. You did not, for instance, miss out on the “official” discussion of piracy because it’s not in the legal edition either. So you and your friends cannot be blamed for breaking the law and buying the illicit version…

Continued at ft.com

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