PIRACY. The mention of that word sends shivers down any composer, musician and writer’s spine. It brings despair to an already struggling industry of the arts.
Piracy in all forms is like a demon cast upon the arts and a leprosy we seem far from finding a cure for.
Digitalisation of the world has not brought any joy either as this has fuelled piracy to unprecedented levels.
In Zimbabwe there has been a huge outcry on the prevention or lack thereof, of measures to stop piracy.
Music is sold in the streets well before dates of release. Films and movies hit the streets and black market well before they premiere on big and small screens.
We just seem to be failing to find answers and lasting solutions to the piracy plague.
While at the moment all efforts and programmes set to combat piracy are and must be appreciated, they seem to be chasing the wildest of gooses.
One of their biggest letdown is that organisations and programmes we expect to be fighting piracy on behalf of the artistes are not working in tandem.
There are very disjointed efforts in attempts to curb piracy.
Recently artistes, musicians and filmmakers have complained that authorities tasked to fight piracy do not seem to be targeting the real problem.
DJs, musicians and other stakeholders have alleged that the laws or some of the regulations set seem to target them instead of the real criminals.
They are the victims and deserve to be protected by the system.
There has been a spate of arrests of DJs who play music on their laptops, USB flash sticks and other music accessories.
Some of those affected claim they were only informed by those in authority at their arrests that it is a crime to play music from laptop memory sticks and USB flash sticks.
This would therefore imply that according to Zimbabwean law (judging by these circumstances) evidence that they are not pirating music is when they play it from hard copy compact discs (CDS) and Vinyl Records.
Sadly though if this a true representation of our law then it is overtaken by time.
These days’ people also buy music on the internet and make downloads from various sites like iTunes at a cost. That is not piracy.
It is not easy to prove that when one is playing music from their laptop or other gadget they did not buy it.
At the second level, when one buys music online one owns it only for personal but not public use.
One can play the songs and movies bought online at home, on one’s laptop, MP3 players and car but not at public venues like bars, street shows, festivals and other commercial events.
One then require a special licence to play this music or show these films on public platforms.
This is where bodies like the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura) come in.
They licence DJs, venues and other entities for a fee to enable them to play music publicly.
They then collect royalties on behalf of artistes whose music is played.
This sounds clear enough in my understanding, but the problem we have is that some licensed organisations, venues and DJs claim that they have been arrested for piracy despite registration and licensing with Zimura.
Some allege they were clearly told that the Zimura licence is as good as useless.
Recently Zimura went on a blitz stopping shows and challenging all stakeholders to register with them.
We therefore challenge them to come out of the woods and help musicians, DJs, bars and all those that play music and show films publicly to understand their position.
Are they working together with the law-enforcing agents in the country?
Is it a marriage of bliss? Are they and the law singing the same song and are their guidelines towards piracy in harmony? Does the law recognise their licence? It is crucial that both our law enforcing agents and bodies like Zimura educate stakeholders and the public on what exactly constitutes piracy in Zimbabwe.
The public, artistes and other stakeholders will benefit from a law meant to protect their livelihood rather than feel that they are they are victims of legislation believed designed to benefit them.
In the meantime, there is clearly serious conflict on the fight against piracy and stakeholders feel they are not benefiting, but rather the real pirates are let loose while they suffer.
A good number also think even those sent out to administer the legislation either do not fully comprehend it or it’s simply overtaken by the times.
Let’s us all put our heads and efforts together and fight piracy, we appreciate the efforts and this is not meant to discourage, but sharpen and improve all set efforts against piracy.
Let’s us speak in one voice and sound the same. Keep walking!
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