Piracy, like a naughty child, has not made its presence felt only in Malawi. Other African countries such as Eritrea, Swazi l and, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Tanzania are dancing to the same tune.
In most countries, relevant authorities turn a blind eye to the vice and this is reflected in the number of arrests made and, in most cases, the culprits get away with a meagre fine.
As a result, authors, musicians and other originators of intellectual property cry foul as they are cheated out of their income by the unscrupulous practice.
In the late 2000s, Malawi’s music industry experienced what seemed like the start of something new as music genres and studios mushroomed.
There was a variety of music genres available for the consumer, and the products were not just available in CDS or tapes but also memory cards and flash disks.
However, since people are always catching up with innovation and technological advancements, new ways of pirating music have also emerged. Digital piracy has climaxed not only in Malawi but across the globe.
According to musicinafrica.net, piracy in Zambia is a big problem facing the music industry. There are several forms of piracy in Zambia, including large-scale commercial duplication.
After the liberalisation of the economy in the early 1990s, Zambia experienced an influx of pirated cassettes and CDs from neighbouring countries, especially Tanzania. These flooded the market and were obviously cheaper and accessible than the original products.
However, the products were counterfeits.
The other common forms of piracy are the small-scale copying and duplication of CDs and tapes in homes, business centres, schools or indeed any place with computers.
People can easily access the music they want on MP3 compilations at a negligible fee. So, instead of buying albums, people select their favourites from several albums and pay very little for it.
Illegal downloading and distribution of music on the internet is a newer form of piracy even in developed countries like the US. Most people typically avoid paying for legal music downloads from sites like iTunes, opting instead to find free or cheaper illegal downloads.
According to www. latimes.com, Apple’s biggest rival when it launched its $10-a-month streaming music service in 2015 was notSpotify or Tidal, but piracy.
About a fifth of internet users around the world continue to regularly access sites offering copyright infringing music, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.
In the US alone, 20 million people still get music through peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, according to research firm MusicWatch. And newer methods have emerged, such as mobile apps and software that rips audio from YouTube.
To reduce the vice, Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) came up with soft copy licensing.
Cosoma Senior Licencing Officer, Rosario Kamanga, said the licensing of soft copy is rooted in copyright law.
“A creator of a work has exclusive right in his work, be it a song, a book, a picture, among other things, which include the right of reproduction. The loading of songs in a flash constitutes an act of reproduction which is an exclusive right which requires a license hence a soft copy license,” Kamanga said.
Kamanga said for anyone to get a license they need to file an application.
“Cosoma has an inspectorate division which goes round the country checking if there are individuals carrying out this type of business without the license. Of course, there are teething problems but we plan to continuously evaluate and improve on its implementation,” he said.
One of the veteran musicians, Lucius Banda, said despite the development, artists are prone to piracy either way.
“We are prone to abuse and piracy. We are just living at the mercy of the people that buy and love our music because whether it’s a CD or soft copy music in memory cards and flash disks, anyone can pirate at any time,” he said.
Banda argued that, with technology at the highest peak, people can share music in the blink of an eye.
“So it just takes those that think of Lucius Banda as an artist and do the needful to support me by buying my original CDs. Otherwise, all these ways are prone to piracy,” he said.
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