/ 24 October 2022

Educate people about how piracy robs Africa’s artists, musicians and actors

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Organisations like Partners Against Piracy, a campaign to protect the livelihoods of content creators by raising awareness about piracy, are gaining traction.(Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The content most often pirated through the internet is software, music, literature and videos, including live sports and the latest series and movies, making streaming piracy arguably the biggest threat to content owners, broadcasters and operators. 

Throughout the world creative-content piracy is rising, particularly since the onset of the Covid-19 lockdowns, which forced many people to stay home, resulting in a surge in demand for TV, film, entertainment and music. 

According to a recent report published by Muso — a technology company providing anti-piracy and market analytics — film piracy has increased by 40%. The report shows that while the world was under lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, film piracy increased by 41% in the United States, 43% in the United Kingdom, 50% in Spain, 62% in India and 66% in Italy, when compared with the final week in February 2020, before most countries went into lockdown.

Although technology kept us together and entertained at the height of the pandemic, we have also seen the development of more enhanced mobile devices and tech tools that can be used for sophisticated cyber piracy. 

In many African countries and elsewhere in the world, intellectual property has been regarded as an exceptional subject for a specific class of people in our societies. But the protection of intellectual property rights has a positive effect on everybody, hence we all have a part to play in the fight against piracy. 

Because of a lack of information and sometimes difficult socioeconomic conditions, some consumers may not be aware that downloading their favourite song without purchasing it or illegally streaming their favourite shows affects musicians and actors’ pockets. Piracy is not a “victimless crime” as many assume. 

While the importance of legislation such as South Africa’s Copyright Amendment Bill and willing law enforcement cannot be understated, the former process cannot be done in a vacuum that overlooks the importance of educating consumers about piracy, the different forms it can take and its effect on economic growth and development in Africa.

In Kenya, for example, the Kenya Copyright Board carries multifaceted initiatives that are aimed at creating public awareness, promoting the enforcement of copyright laws, and continuing to educate people about matters of copyright and related rights. 

It is crucial for those committed to curbing piracy to actively embark on an intensive consumer-centred approach aimed at educating the public, especially the youth, on the negative effect of piracy on the livelihoods of content creators.  

We must make use of the available resources to ensure that the process of implementing effective and efficient enforcement of legislation occurs in tandem with the process of empowering people for the legislation to be understood and adhered to and, most importantly, equipping them with the tools to condemn those around them who are engaged in piracy. 

It is without question that piracy has negative effects on the economy and the ability of creative professionals to earn a living. Left unchecked, the theft of content will severely harm investor confidence  and tax revenue, and can also affect trade opportunities. 

The gears have started turning. Organisations such as Partners Against Piracy, a Pan-African campaign to protect the livelihoods of the thousands of content creators through raising awareness, mobilising stakeholders and galvanising the public on the dangers of piracy, are gaining traction. 

Laws can only be respected when they are understood. That is why key stakeholders such as the department of justice and correctional services, businesses, civil society and NGOs need to ensure that they create sufficient, digestible, informative educational material in the form of workshops, pamphlets and discussions aimed at different age groups on piracy and how it can be prevented. 

To preserve African content everyone needs to ensure that local artists are nurtured, protected, encouraged and motivated. One of the ways to do this is by joining forces as a society to protect their livelihoods and overtly condemn piracy in all its forms. 

Chola Makgamathe is the chairperson of the Copyright Coalition of South Africa.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.