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Thriving Jordanian bootleggers "a threat"

Jordanian copyright pirates behave not unlike Chicago gangsters during prohibition.


“Sometimes it’s an endless effort, but I hope that there will be an end for it with the help of the other governmental agencies. This problem will not be solved by only one department,” says Talhouni, who hopes for greater cooperation from his counterparts throughout the government, but generally commends its efforts.

He also acknowledges that getting other agencies more involved would require serious time and resources. For example, before police could bust bootleggers they would need specialized training, which would require creating a curriculum and officers.

When Talhouni talks about copyright law, he’s the kind of person that can’t help but cite specific legal articles by number. He ignores criticism from friends who think his job makes a mountain out of a molehill and says he has converted both his wife and his 13-year-old daughter into copyright zealots.

In other words, he’s the kind of guy who can’t get his head around why anyone would want to break copyright law and buy pirated goods.

“You can see movies on the TV, you can rent a movie for 2JD, you are not obliged to buy, and if you have enough money you can buy. But people say, ‘Why should I buy a movie at the expense of 15JD when I can buy it for 1JD?’” he says. “This man [selling bootleg movies] is stealing the rights from others. Why are you encouraging these people to commit this crime?”

As long as there remains a major disparity between the price of legitimate and pirated goods, Rawand al-Zoubi, a legal advisor at the Audio Visual Commission who also works with copyright law, says that there is only so much countries like Jordan can do without action from the media producers themselves.

“In my opinion, the reforming of regulations and laws that govern this sector should start from the U.S., Europe, and the U.K. because they are the source,” Zoubi said. “We are the market and we receive the product from outside … so we have to control the source first.”

Talhouni places much of his hope in educating the next generation about the merits of abiding by copyright law and has requested that the Ministry of Education make it part of the curriculum. So far, no one has.

However, he says the stakes are high for enforcement. Jordan, could for example, become a software manufacturer if developers didn’t feel threatened by bootlegging. Additionally, the country loses millions of dollars in tax revenue it could collect from legitimate goods entering the country. More than anything, Talhouni says his nation’s cultural heritage is on the line.

“You might have more singers if they find out that singing is profitable work. Writers will be encouraged to write, more actors will act more, etc., etc.,” he says. “By not abiding by the copyright law and respecting these people there will be very negative affects on the culture.”