Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pirates of the Navajo Nation

Pirates of the Navajo Nation

February 26th, 2008 by Carole Levine

To most people, music and video piracy isn’t really that bad; sorta like getting paid under the table for painting your neighbor’s house or grabbing a few butter mints from the bulk food bins. No big deal. Nobody is hurt and you even get to hear music and watch movies at a price you can afford.

No big deal, of course, unless you happen to be the artist whose property is being stolen. Then, it’s a big deal indeed, especially for artists who aren’t millionaire celebs, which by the way, describes the vast majority. Most musicians, performers and filmmakers aren’t rich at all—their dedication is rolled up with plenty o’ sweat and sacrifice and a woefully low income.

That’s why the indignation of Native artists has reached a fevered pitch on what's been happening on the Navajo Nation in full public view. Although it is outlawed federally, bootlegging is not illegal on the reservation allowing swindlers to counterfeit DVDs and CDs from major performers as well as struggling indie filmmakers and Native musicians.

The Navajo victims of this scam have had enough. In April, legislation will go before the Tribal Council to enact anti-piracy laws for the first time on the Navajo Nation. Sponsored by Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie, the new law will enforce what the Feds have ruled illegal for a long time—the stealing of another’s intellectual and artistic property for personal gain. It is way overdue and we strongly support Yazzie’s proposal.

Filmmakers Andee and Shonie De La Rosa of Sheephead Films have made a 21-minute video,

Pirates of the Navajo Nation, which includes interviews with comedian/actor James Junes; members of the bands Blackfire and Ethnic de Generation, as well as the owners of a local video store and others impacted by bootlegging. I urge you to watch, because what you’ll see and hear is definitely a big deal—for the artists, the store owners and the taxpayers of the Navajo Nation.

Stay tuned, we will be covering this issue in the weeks to come…

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