Artistic pirates on rampage in Zimbabwe Pirated Disks

Stephen Mpofu

YES, it is official: artistic pirates are on a warpath, plundering and fattening themselves on the sweat of other human beings.

A Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary affairs spokesman revealed two days ago in response to questions by this communicologist: “In Zimbabwe, copies of pirated CDs, DVDs, music videos, textbooks, and novels are available for very low prices in the informal sector.”

Yes, photocopies of a novel and O-level set book by this author are being sold on the streets for $7 a copy when the same pirated copy of the book fetches $62 in the United States of America with a worker at the original publisher in Harare claiming that the book was pirated to that country by unknown people.

The spokesman said not only are the pirated copies poorly reproduced, but they lead to losses for the musicians, publishers and authors.

A Zimbabwean working in England is known to have had a book written by a relative back home reprinted as his own work and is known to have built a secondary school in Masvingo province with claims to people back home that he was sponsored by a British university where he works.

The university in question could not be immediately contacted to confirm that it was party to an educational project in a Zimbabwe under British economic sanctions.

The employee at the publishing house in Harare told this writer that the novels photocopied by pirates and sold on the streets were “so well done” one could not tell that they were pirated. Book piracy has raised questions among the public as to whether schools have been put on alert to not allow students to use pirated materials for their lessons.

The Justice and Legal Affairs spokesman went to great lengths in his report to shed light for the public to know exactly what the crime of piracy is all about. The crime in point relates to “illegal reproduction and dissemination of copyrighted material. Such materials include inter alia, computer programmes, books, music and films.”

He added: “It encompasses bypassing legal channels to access and distribute content, often facilitated by online platforms and peer-to-peer networks. Piracy involves unauthorised copying that infringe on the owner’s rights.”

He added that according to the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act (Chapter 26:05), copyright means “the sole legal right to print, publish, perform film or record a literary or artistic or musical work.

“Copyright protects the expression of an idea, and broadly refers to exclusive right of the holder to copy a creative work or allow someone else to do so. It includes the sole right to publish, produce or reproduce, to perform in public, to communicate a work to the public through telecommunications, to translate someone’s work and in certain instances, to rent the work. Copyright encompasses artistic creations including but not limited to poems, music, novels, cinematographic works, drawings and paintings.”

He went on: “The Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act (Chapter 26:05) (Copyright Act) defines the type of works that are eligible for copyright protection in Zimbabwe. Copyright exists in Zimbabwe without registration provided that the right exists within the provisions of the Copyright Act.

The protection of a created work is automatic with effect from the date of creation of the works. Once it is established that the work concerned falls within the parameters of copyright protection, the copyright owner does not need to take a further step.”

For the benefit of all concerned in the subject of piracy, the legal guru above said: “In Zimbabwe there are several remedies for copyright infringement. However, certain requirements must be met by the author, artist or musician.

Firstly, according to Section 10 of the Act, the work must be eligible for copyright, Section 11 states that the author should be a qualified person and the work should qualify for copyright protection by virtue of the country where it was published in terms of Section 12. Moreover, the work should be made under the direction and control of the State or designated international organisation as according to Section 13 of the Act.

“Right holders can enforce their rights in various ways as such as the Intellectual Property Tribunal, the High Court of Zimbabwe and (subject to jurisdictional limits) the Magistrates Court. Criminal proceedings may also be instituted with the assistance of police arresting those persons who infringe copyrights and bringing them before the Magistrates Court and High Courts.”

He also said interim and final interdicts are also available to copyright holders as remedies against a copyright.
“Other remedies include damages, sentences of imprisonment, the imposition of fines and Anton Piller orders, which is a special court order that is given to the plaintiff to allow the plaintiff or their lawyers to enter the premises of the defendants to obtain any necessary evidence.”

This pen exhorts the strong arm of this country’s law to reach out for those that reap where they did not sow and shove the plunderers in the shade to learn a lesson they will never ever forget.

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