HURRAH! SCORE ONE for Robin Hood. He has nettled the Sheriff of Nottingham into giving the people under the castle walls a fair deal. Yes indeed, copyright pirates have done us all a favour by forcing an official copyright holder to drop prices for an entertainment video or lose out to the fakes in the marketplace. It is a classic Robin Hood victory - take from the few and give to the many. The news here is that the distributors of the local police thriller, Infernal Affairs III, have flooded shops in Beijing with low-priced DVD copies of the film only days after it was released for cinema viewing. Their aim is to take the market back from the pirated copies, which would otherwise have outsold the legal offering by a wide margin. Now perhaps it is unfair to pin the producers of Infernal Affairs III with having played the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Our local film industry is not really rolling in money. A far better target for the Sheriff description would be the big Hollywood studios. But at least we have a toe in the door here for the interests of DVD buyers. Infernal Affairs III represents the obvious solution to the problem of what film studios should do when pirates copy studio offerings and run off with sales proceeds that would otherwise have gone to the studios - flood the market immediately with low-priced approved versions of the film and give the audiences real value for money. I hear your counter-argument. It is still not a fair deal for the studios, you say. If they are forced to it, it is only because the law has failed them. They invest a great deal of money in films and it is only right that they should get the return on that investment rather than see it go to pirates who put no money into making the films. Fair point, and particularly so for films, but consider the music recording business for a moment. How much of what you pay for a legal CD goes to the artist who composed and recorded that music? I shall give you 5 per cent and it may be a little higher but not much higher and the cost of manufacturing that CD is certainly much less. The entertainment industry has increasingly used the rights we have given it through copyright law to crush the natural market and overcharge us for recorded offerings. There must indeed be a balance in these matters, one that gives the industry as well as consumers a fair deal, but, with ever more onerous copyright rules, that balance has become unbalanced in the industry's favour. The Sheriff of Nottingham indeed had a right to live too but Robin Hood's objection was that he took more than his fair share. The lesson here is that the rule of law puts itself in danger when it is skewed to serving special interests as it increasingly is with copyright law. Robin Hood was an outlaw but let us take a poll now of whom you consider the hero in his differences with the Sheriff. The DVD version of that poll is being taken at the moment on the streets of Asian cities and Robin Hood gets the vote again. Yes, I grant you that if he wins an outright victory we may have cash-strapped studios not splashing out as much money as they currently do on films and perhaps we will all be the losers for it. In my view, however, this would be a fate that the entertainment industry, particularly the Hollywood version, itself invited when it did such things as convince the United States Congress to extend copyright to 90 years after the death of the author in order to protect Disney's hold on Mickey Mouse. It did it here in Hong Kong when it pushed our government into adopting parallel import restrictions that had the effect of tightening the market for entertainment and driving prices up. But let us leave the moral questions of this debate aside for the moment if you do not agree with my way of looking at them. Copyright piracy will not go away despite the fulminations of the studios and the questions facing the industry now are actually commercial ones. Should it continue to insist that police forces use all the resources at their disposal to extinguish piracy or should it recognise this remedy has largely failed and deal with the pirates on their own ground by giving the market immediate supply of recorded entertainment in the form the market wants it at prices that will compete with the pirates? The producers of Infernal Affairs III have made that choice and I congratulate them. It is a decision made on the basis of pragmatic reality. Hollywood will have to follow them eventually, screaming and protesting all the while no doubt, but this is likely to be the way things are headed.