Intellectual piracy? Who, us?

In observation of the U.S. announcement that it was taking complaints about illegal Chinese copying of books, videos, music, software, etc to the WTO, my wife and I decided to check out the local pirate-video stores. (Here, the way the NY Times explains the complaint; here, the way the People's Daily does. Any time you're tempted to think the world is in any sense "flat," try a compare-and-contrast exercise like this to see how unevenly ideas and perspectives spread beyond their native shores.)

Before our recent trip to the U.S, our two favorite local shops had been mysteriously closed for a few days. The mysterious part was the announcement that they were closed "until next Tuesday." Since returning I'd read ominous stories about an impending DVD crackdown, tied no doubt to the WTO action. Maybe my loss -- no more 78-cent copies of Borat, Babel, or The Queen, or 91 cents depending on the dealer -- would be the MPAA's gain?

In fact, no! The stores were open and bustling. Relatively new movies were on the shelf; brisk commerce underway, with customers from (judging by accents) Germany, America, Australia, Holland, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, France, and of course mainland China buying disks in the ten minutes I was there. Only sign of disharmony: grumbling by several customers that the Oscar-winning film The Lives of Others was available only in its original German version (Das Leben der Anderen), or in German with Chinese subtitles. Where was the consideration for the English-speaking customers?