It is sad to note that in most parts of Zimbabwe, pirated CDs, DVDs and books are openly sold on roadsides. This eliminates opportunities for our creative industry to develop. Pirates pay no advances to performers, no royalties on sales, no licensing fees to composers, songwriters, and
publishers, no fees to graphic artists and photographers, and no tax revenues on their sales.
They take no risks and ride along on the promotional and marketing spend of legitimate producers of the musical albums they illicitly reproduce.
Wherever piracy flourishes, it is virtually impossible for local film, music and book industries to compete, to grow, or to develop at all.
Common sense says when the overall revenue from music decreases, recording companies are more hesitant to sign new talented artists and more reliant on the earnings from the most profitable ones.
The result is a creative industry that is more challenging for new players to enter.
Piracy betrays the owners of copyrighted works.
In the process, it threatens the livelihood of most if not all practitioners in the creative industries.
Beyond the simple economic loss caused by piracy, inadequate respect for cultural works, and the heritage they embody, is the inevitable further consequence of piracy, an effect that runs entirely counter to national efforts to promote indigenous culture and identity.
Although the Internet has helped the music industry, it has hurt it as well. Sites like www.4shared.com, Isohunt and Bookboon allow illegal downloading of free songs and books. Free downloads of music and books have led to declining sales.
A growing problem of particular concern to book publishers is the increasing numbers of illegal downloads of online journals, as well as the unauthorised digitisation of collections by libraries, together with a marked rise in the sharing of such digitised versions of works.
The work of authors and musicians deserves to be treated like all products we buy at markets. In this selfish world, nothing is for free. To mutually benefit, artists should produce quality products and people should pay to benefit.
To put food on their tables, musicians and authors need to give their fans more of a reason to purchase their music and other artistic works from their production and publishing houses directly instead of downloading it illegally.
Thus, one strategy is to offer an incentive that can only be obtained by those who can prove they bought the album from the production and publishing houses. This can be a special bonus item.
Publishers and producers should also make CDs, DVDs and textbooks available at more affordable prices.
The emphasis should shift to developing better ways to compensate musicians, authors and those who represent them. Practitioners in the creative industry should be more active and work with law enforcement authorities to make copyright infringement more risky than it is now.
Investment in the cultural sector of any country can be significant and sustained over many years, if investors find in place both an adequate legal system for the protection of the rights in intellectual property and effective enforcement of those rights.
Thus, the single most effective anti-piracy strategy is to help build a thriving legal marketplace.
That should always be the industry's number one priority. The goal should be to protect the ability of the music and book industry.
Piracy is against the law -- making unauthorised copies of copyrighted work is against the law.
Thus, street vendors who sell pirated copies of CDs, DVDs and textbooks must be brought to book. Backyard printers and photocopiers who initiate piracy must also be prosecuted.
On a sad mote, the justice system treats piracy as a minor offence compared to other crimes.
The copyright legislation in Zimbabwe is letting the creative industries down. The Copyright Act that is on the statute book was passed in 1966 and it was amended several times (29/1971 (s.59), 32/1979 (s.8), 29/1981, R.G.N. 1340/1973).
Accordingly, stakeholders in the creative sector are dealing with legislation that was passed when the likes of Microsoft and Adobe were mere start-up companies.
The production and publishing industry is using this old logic to solve the problem. The truth is that the old logic no longer works.
We need a new logic to deal with copyright and to ensure that the rights of all interested stakeholders are protected.
This new legislation should further explore some of the issues already covered in the Berne Convention, Trips Agreement and Wipo treaties.
Under the new legislation, the copyright owners should have exclusive rights over the use of their material including the right to reduce the material such as printing and saving, the right to communicate the material to the public, such as faxing, emailing, text messaging, web hosting and the right to distribute the material.
In whatever material form a work is created, it should be copyright protected.