THE Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports Innocent Bashungwa has instructed the Copyright Society of Tanzania (COSOTA) to crack down on thieves of artists' works in the country, especially distributors of Cable TV in different regions who arbitrarily join and distribute to customers who do not generate revenue for the Company and the Government.
"I direct COSOTA and BASATA to take legal action to those who rob content created by our artists... I urge you to deal with these people who rob our artists as soon as possible as I hear the cases you have and the evidence. These people are using the wrong methods to earn their income and through their wrong ways of getting income becomes a barrier to the government to get revenue," stressed Bashungwa.
Earlier this year, COSOTA, in collaboration with the Dar es Salaam police force, seized the properties of three businesspeople in Kariakoo, allegedly for being involved in the production of counterfeit CDs.
COSOTA Senior Copyright Inspector Paul Makula said that suspects' production equipment had been seized during an impromptu inspection.
They were alleged to produce counterfeit CDs for local and foreign artists' works. During the inspection, it was found out that the suspects were working without the consent or contracts from the artists that would otherwise give them legitimacy to produce that content.
"In doing so, they are exploiting artists from earning their rightful and whopping amount of cash from their artistic work," he said.
One of the manufacturers whose properties were seized was 'Sanyiwa Production', where its supervisor Frank Manyama revealed to a journalist that they have been producing an average of 3000-4000 CD copies per day and sell them to wholesalers for 700/- each thus collecting 2,800,000/-.
According to COSOTA Legal Officer Lupakisyo Mwambinga, the act is an infringement of Copyright or Neighbouring rights to which the civil remedies and criminal sanctions are applicable. He said the offence is punishable by imprisonment for not less than six months to three years or a fine of not less than 20m/-.
He further added that the operation is sustainable and is focused on protecting artworks in the country.
"This operation is sustainable; it aims at protecting the works of art in this country; it has been a habit for individuals to seek life through shortcuts by performing illegal activities which in turn exploit those who legally own those assignments. COSOTA will continue this operation to identify the perpetrators," said Mwambinga.
COSOTA was established under section 46 of the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, No. 7 of 1999. The Copyright Society of Tanzania is vested with power to administer the Copyright Act.
This in itself is a great improvement on the old Act which, among other things, did not provide for an Institution to administer the Act. It took more than four hours in the streets of Kariakoo, Dar es Salaam to search for those illegal manufacturers. Among the equipment seized during the inspection was that of Sanyiwa Production.
During the inspection, they found a CD cover with a group picture of several local artists such as Nasibu Abdul alias Diamond Platinumz and his crew 'Wasafi'