No discussion on intellectual property rights (IPR) is complete without mentioning the problem of piracy around the world. Piracy is defined as the copying, stealing, reproducing, transmitting, and selling of the intellectual property (IP) of an individual without his or her express consent and written approval as well as without paying that person the royalties due to him or her.
Piracy, as we know, refers to buying IP products at deeply discounted prices since the product would have been pirated and hence, there are no costs for the pirate except the minimal cost of reproduction. The range of such products can include software, movies, music, books, and even pharmaceuticals and other works of art that would have been produced at great cost by the inventor.
Some of us have probably seen the infamous warnings that appear at the beginning of many movies or music videos. The language warns of severe penalties for the “… unauthorised reproduction, distribution or exhibition of copyrighted motion pictures…”
The warning is a hint that movies are protected by copyright. They cannot be copied or used in any commercial fashion without the explicit acknowledgement of the copyright holder. Doing so is illicit. It is an act of piracy.
It’s not just movies or other forms of videos that are protected. Photos, books, graphic designs, music and all sorts of other creative works are guarded by copyright for many decades after their creation. Copyright is accorded the moment a work is created and lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus an additional 70 years after his or her death.
In the music industry, piracy remains a major problem. Music piracy is defined as “the illegal duplication and distribution of sound recordings.” Each time an album or single is purchased, a fraction of that sale goes to the artist or band that made the song. This money is called a royalty payment. This is where musicians earn most of their income.
Ten years ago, music executives began promoting the future of streaming as a solution to the industry’s problems. Access to legal streaming, they claimed, would lower the rate of piracy and increase the return artists saw from their creations.
Any artist reading this now can tell you the latter half of that promise has proven to be an outright lie. While the most popular artists in the world are seeing big returns for their music online, the vast majority of talent sees next to nothing. Worse yet, the sales of physical media have largely bottomed out, which has only further hurt smaller artists.
What you might not realise is that the first half of that promise was a lie as well. Piracy hasn’t gotten better over the last decade. In fact, it’s more popular than ever. The amount of digital media pirated in 2018 was double the amount pirated in 2008. That figure has grown larger still over the last two years, and it shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.
What this means is that if people continually download music or tracks from the Internet without paying for them or buy them from the illegal street piraters, the musicians receive no royalties. This is a serious problem because if singers are not paid, this will threaten the future of music copyright as they might leave the industry due to the decreased return.
Celebrated Zimbabwean Gospel music veteran Baba Mechanic Manyeruke revealed he was tired of creating music that does not benefit him and that he will not produce new stuff soon until responsible authorities have put in place measures to curb unbridled piracy.
“I have realised that I am working for nothing,” the Makorokoto maker was quoted by the Herald.
“Everything we are producing is going to piracy and there is no reason for me to continue working while someone will be waiting to reap the fruits without putting any effort. It is not fair.”
The seasoned musician, who has 26 studio albums under his sleeve, called on authorities in the music industry to rise to the occasion and explore mechanisms of guard their music against piracy as well as emphasising on stiffer punishment for perpetrators.
He said it appears between little and nothing was being done to fight piracy as people involved were doing so without fear of possible reprisals.
“It is sad that most of these people are freely doing it without fear, knowing that no one will ever challenge their illegal activities. They are making a living out of the musicians’ sweat, and we are saying this must come to an end.”
Last year, the grizzled veteran ended his five years of dry spell with the release of Dzokororo, a 10-track project which features some of his time-honoured songs such as Moses Murenje and Madhimoni. The album was launched at the plush Meikles Hotel in Harare at a star-studded event dubbed ‘An Evening with the Legend’ this Saturday.
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