* Partners Against Piracy looks to ensure Malawi’s content creators earn a living from their talent
* And to increase the demand for locally produced content through the consumption of their authorized works
* MultiChoice as digital entertainment provider is also affected mainly in the form of broadcasting piracy
By Duncan Mlanjira
MultiChoice Malawi and the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) have joined forces in the fight to protect Creative Copyright and associated Intellectual Property rights through the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) — ahead of the launch of the Partners Against Piracy (PAP) initiative.
In a joint communique, MultiChoice Malawi and COSOMA says the MoU will ensure that the two partners collaborate in the fight especially against content piracy and awareness raising in line with the PAP campaign.
The campaign will consist of activities that will raise awareness by educating the public on the unintended consequences of piracy and the threat it poses to lives, livelihoods, society and personal cyber security.
PAP looks to ensure Malawi’s content creators earn a living from their talent and increase the demand for locally produced content through the consumption of their authorized works.
“We are excited and happy to be partnering you [MultiChoice] on this initiative, Dora Makwinja, COSOMA’s executive director is quoted as saying in the communique.
“The signing of this partnership marks the beginning as we now continue into the next phase, which is implementation of strategies to combat piracy.”
Piracy involves the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, use including sharing or selling of copyrighted content. Piracy is stealing as it robs content creators, artists and entire creative communities of their royalties. It also robs the government of taxes.
Last November, MultiChoice Malawi the joined the Pan-African campaign on its full throttle to contain the rampant content piracy — throwing its weight behind PAP since the digital entertainment provider is also affected mainly in the form of broadcasting piracy.
Broadcasting piracy involves the use of video and audio content without the consent of rightsholders. It takes many forms, but in Malawi, the main form MultiChoice is experiencing is cross-border piracy.
This is when decoders are bought under false pretences in one country and then shipped to neighbouring countries, sold and get illegally connected, MultiChoice has said when it joined the campaign.
“Creative content piracy is rising — particularly since the onset of CoVID-19 lockdowns, which forced many people to stay home, resulting in a surge in demand for TV and film entertainment.
“In Africa, it is not just individuals and web start-ups, but also large organisations that share content without paying the licence fees owed to the creators, licence holders and distributors. This seriously threatens the sustainability of Africa’s creative sector.”
Thus in the MoU, the campaign will focus on two main categories of piracy that include broadcast piracy which involves the use of video and audio content without the consent of rights-holders.
It also encompasses cyber piracy, or internet piracy, which is currently 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 movies.
High-quality content and advanced streaming technology has become more easily available and easier for pirates to illegally acquire and redistribute content for illicit profits, documented to fund social ills including identity theft and trafficking.
Zena Makunje, MultiChoice Malawi’s corporate affairs manager is quoted as saying: “In partnership with COSOMA,we aim to bring increased awareness to the effects of piracy on the Malawian creative industry and reiterate the Partners Against Piracy ethos, that African Creativity Matters”.
“In Africa — where people are struggling with depressed socio-economic circumstances and our attention is on serious issues like lack of income, poor education and health access — the problem of piracy is sometimes simply not considered a priority, and is often considered a victimless crime by the ‘pirates’ as well as the participant.
“This cannot be further from the truth. Online piracy results in billions of dollars in lost revenue to the media, creative and related service industries and further impacts local economic development by depriving government of much needed tax revenue to invest in social infrastructure and therefore negatively impacts society at large,” she said.
According to US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Centre, digital video piracy costs the entertainment industry up to US$71 billion every year — harming businesses, destroying lives and livelihoods and stifling economic growth.
The report says this huge industry loss — more than the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of Mozambique, Uganda and Guinea combined — represents the impact on the US entertainment sector alone while the economic impact on the rest of the world is similarly catastrophic.
For many years, this kind of behaviour has plagued the Malawi economy and creative industry with hundreds of entities cropping up in Malawi, working hand-in-hand with illegal entities in South Africa to enable locals to consume South African content outside of its jurisdiction.
COSOMA’s Dora Makwinja said while the battle against piracy in the areas of software, film and music has played out sensationally in the popular media and different circles, piracy of broadcasters’ signals has received scant attention.
“Lack of awareness about the issue of signal piracy in the Malawi is attributable to mainly the absence of empirical assessment of both the scale of signal piracy in the country and the associated financial losses incurred by the broadcasting industry,” she had said last year.
“Notwithstanding the need for more detailed analysis of the current situation, evidence suggests that broadcast piracy affects small and large broadcasters alike wherever they operate.
“In fact, broadcasters in developing and least developed countries suffer the greatest harm from signal piracy because they often do not benefit from the economies of scale enjoyed by their counterparts in more mature economies.
Thus Makwinja said signal piracy makes it significantly more difficult for broadcasters such as MultiChoice to sell their content in foreign markets, especially when viewers in those markets already have access to the content through illegal means.
“Much as we as COSOMA have focused our attention on fighting piracy of physical products, it is high time that we moved to fighting piracy of the illegal access to content. We are therefore pleased to join forces with MultiChoice Malawi in this initiative.”
MultiChoice contends that local consumers of South African content through illegal decoders or fraudulently acquired subscriptions fail to realise that the content being consumed is produced, licensed and/or commissioned for a specific audience.
“Illegal consumption of the content elsewhere, negatively impacts the content owners lives and livelihoods and furthermore, infringes on intellectual property rights and laws which govern where content is meant to be consumed and under what circumstances,” said MultiChoice Malawi Managing Director, Gus Banda.
“As we engage key industry stakeholders that are collectively determined to clamp down on content piracy, we are proud to lend our voice to amplify and create awareness against content theft.
“Contrary to the belief that piracy is a harmless crime, it in fact has a serious negative effect on our economy. It harms investor confidence and tax revenue, and can also affect trade opportunities, if we are not seen as a country where intellectual property is respected and protected.”
Jointly with multi-stakeholder partnership in this awareness programme, Partners Against Piracy educates the public on the unintended consequences of piracy and the threat it poses to livelihoods, and to society.
It looks to ensure Africa’s creatives earn a living from their talent, freeing them to continue creating relevant, entertaining content that reflects the culture and interests of the continent in a sustainable way.
In March last year, COSOMA impounded 147 gadgets that enable illegal transferring, photocopying, distribution and public performance of other people’s creative works in an operation which took place in Kasungu.
The operation was carried out in Madisi, Chinkhoma, Kasungu Boma, Nkhamenya, Chatoloma Chitete, Gundani, Kasalika, Chiteyeye, Kasankha, Juma, 4 Ways, Linga, Chulu where COSOMA seized equipment comprising 130 computers, 12 printers and bar equipment including stabilizers and 7 speakers.
After the operation, COSOMA’ Licencing Manager, Mutty Mukhondiya had said the raids intensified to encourage people to pay for copyright registration and “end this habit of using other people’s work for selfish gains while the owner profits nothing”.
“A lot of artists in Malawi do not really benefit financially from their work, and it has only gotten worse with the CoVID-19 pandemic, as artists cannot perform thus killing their income generation.
“It is now more than ever that we as COSOMA are tirelessly making sure the artists get as much from the infringers.”
According to the Copyright Act 2016, Section 95 and 96(2), COSOMA Inspectors may enter any premises whether in a ship, aircraft, shop or vehicle and upon production of his certificate of identification seize and detain any substance or article which he/she has reasonable cause to believe to be infringing any copyright work.