Piracy continues to rob the creative industry of its much needed income in Africa including Malawi and this has forced some artists to dump their art and find alternatives for solace.
Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) Executive Director Dora Makwinja admitted that fighting piracy was a big challenge.
And with technology moving at a fast pace, research shows that users across Africa are going online to consume pirated content – striking a serious blow to the sustainability of Africa’s content-creation industries.
Figures released by software security and media technology company Irdeto show that users in five major African territories made a total of around 17.4 million visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.
This traffic forms part of the total 345.4 million visits by worldwide users to piracy sites last year. The most popular content piracy site tracked by Irdeto attracted 92.2 million visits during the survey period from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa to Tanzania.
“Anytime someone accesses, shares or sells copyrighted content without authorisation, they are committing content piracy,” Mark Mulready from Cyber Services at Irdeto said.
He added that, as high-quality content and streaming technology become more easily available, they have made it easier for pirates to illegally acquire and redistribute content.
According to Mulready, streaming piracy is the biggest threat to content owners, broadcasters and operators.
“The content most often pirated via the internet is software, music, literature and video content, including live sports and the latest series and movies. With more powerful mobile devices, a smartphone alone can be used for sophisticated cyber piracy,” he said.
With growing accessibility to internet bundles and Malawi’s burgeoning creative industry, the local arts industry is also susceptible to the knock-on effects that result from digital piracy.
“Demand to buy local content is largely diminished due to piracy. Movie theatres, television broadcasters and streaming platforms would be less willing to acquire a product that has already been viewed by their target clientele,” Khumbo Munthali, music promoter and producer of the film Highbrow said.
Film Association of Malawi (Fama) President Gift Sukez Sukali described piracy as bad from all angles.
“When work produced by artists is pirated, the creative professionals do not get their deserved revenue from their work. This means artists and creatives struggle to make a living through their craft, which is demotivating,” Sukali said.
He said piracy also discourages artists from investing in equipment and talent development as well as to produce more content that can represent Malawian stories locally and across the continent.
In Africa, for instance, individuals and large organisations that share content without paying the licence fees owed to the creators, licence holders and distributors seriously threaten the sustainability of the creative sector and this robs content creators, artists and the entire creative community value chain of their royalties.
MultiChoice Malawi and Cosoma have backed efforts being made through Pan-African Partners Against Piracy initiative, whose focus is to fight the scourge of piracy and protect livelihoods of thousands of professionals who depend on the content industry to feed their families, hone their craft and support local economy.
Makwinja said development comes with challenges and that piracy was one of them.
“We need to find ways of controlling it and one of them is the blank media levy initiative which countries are utilising. We cannot police it but rather look at compensation and also monetizing content,” she said.
Makwinja also said, within the Copyright Act, artists have the power to employ technological protection to their works.
“We also have gone into an agreement with a licensing agency in South Africa which monitors works for our members but there is more to be done. In partnership with MultiChoice, we have also been looking at signal piracy,” she said.