Create a piracy-free environment

Saturday May 15 2021
letter01pix
By Guest Writer

Creators like musicians and authors put a lot of energy, time, money and thought to develop products of  Human intellect. For this reason, these creators or rights owners should receive a fair return on investment. However, this is not usually the case in most countries like Uganda where there is wide spread piracy.

Mostly affected are the copyright-based industries like music, film and publishing.  Uganda’s streets, shopping malls and arcades are littered with pirated music, films and books.  Sadly, this has been encouraged by consumers who prefer pirated products to legitimate ones.

Piracy means the unauthorised reproduction and distribution of copies of copyright protected material without the authorisation of the right owner. The causes of piracy can be attributed to unemployment, lack of awareness on intellectual property laws, inadequate enforcement and non-compliance with copyright law. These enduring problems are further compounded by the challenges posed by new digital technologies which create opportunity for easy reproduction and distribution of copyright protected material.

Piracy is inimical to Uganda’s nascent Uganda’s copyright-based industries.  It has far-reaching ramifications in relation to the legitimate interests of authors and artists as well as the long-term social and economic interests of Uganda. The right owners who invest enormous energy, time and money in producing sound recordings, films, books and computer programmes suffer huge losses in revenue.

As a consequence, the morale of creators of genuine copyright-protected products is diminished and they get discouraged from setting up business operations in the country.  

The government loses much-needed tax revenue and the country loses out on its ability to attract foreign direct investment, and to harness opportunities for technology transfer. Additionally, piracy can be used as conduit to finance terrorism and money laundering thus putting the security of the country at stake.

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But what can be done to annihilate piracy in the copyright-based industries? The approach should be multipronged.  Firstly, the generators of copyrighted products and users should be aware about intellectual property.
 
Secondly, the public should appreciate the importance and relevance of intellectual property. Thirdly, the youth who are mostly engaged in the business of pirating movies, music, books and software should be advised on how to legally conduct business. The general belief among these youth is that there is nothing wrong with duplication, reproduction, online download and distribution of music and films.

To them, it is normal and therefore lawful. Some seem to be ignorant about the existing law on copyright and neighbouring rights. Fourthly, it is important to increase vigilance enforcement against piracy, this can be achieved through cooperation of all the stakeholders concerned.

Consumers can also play a significant role in stopping piracy by rejecting pirated music, film or books and ask for legitimate products. Reduced demand for pirated goods in the market will lower the incentive for their production and eventually disappear in the long run.

Intellectual property has enormous potential in terms of promoting wealth creation, alleviating poverty, generating employment and boosting economic development in general. Piracy inflicts on legitimate business and a lot of money is lost every day by the rights owners which would be potential revenue. The future of Uganda’s creative industries will remain uncertain if each citizen doesn’t raise up to fight piracy.

There is need to create a piracy-free environment in order for our creative industries to flourish. This will enable the musicians, book authors, movie producers, among others to benefit from the fruits of their labour and also lead to Uganda’s prosperity.

Michael Wabugo,         mikewab@gmail.com

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