Save the Ghana Music Industry from Pirates

By Richard Oheneba Moke

 Our governments must take the issue of piracy – in all its forms – more seriously. It is no longer acceptable for governments and individuals on the African continent to turn a blind eye or regard piracy as merely a small irritation to society.

There is piracy in music, films, books and other intellectual works. And this illegal trade is not only destroying creativity and innovation, eliminating jobs and livelihoods but also bankrolling organised crime.

Piracy, which is an infringement of the copyright law, has become a lucrative source of revenue for organized international criminal gangs and local boys who exploit music and a wide variety of other products, and use their huge profits to fund other crimes like gun smuggling, drug trafficking, money laundering and terrorist activities.

It is heart warning to learn from the Record Producers and Music Publishers Association of Ghana (REPPAH) that the Ghana Police Service has successfully created a commercial crime unit at its headquarters in Accra that would among other issues deal with piracy.

We, the musicians of Ghana, hope that this unit shall be well resourced to take up the enormous but important task of combating the extensive copyright crime that lay before it.

A research by REPPAH on Piracy has brought to the fore the fact that the legislative instrument (LI) 1962 of the Pirates Act, Act 690, has already been given teeth to bite after the long delay for its presidential assent.

Now we have the law and its enforcement is important. It must begin to bite and bite well.

In their illegal trade the pirates wait for a record company or producer to produce the music or video and then they manage to get one copy and reproduce that in larger quantities for sale to the public, at far lower prices,
thereby undermining the sales of the original work. This cripples any investment made in the original work.

Recently at a stakeholders meeting between REPPAH and the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund representatives, it came to light that even promotional copies of music and videos given to Radio and Television stations find their way to Dubai, China and Singapore and other Far Eastern countries for counterfeiting and return through the free ports (eg Togo) and then flooded in the markets in Ghana at considerably low prices. Some are sold to the public on trucks for one Ghana cedi.

Sometimes, these works are reproduced on the high seas and dumped at the free ports for onward distribution worldwide with 10 to 20 films and over 400 songs on MP3 for GH¢1.00.

The problem is so huge that it needs all hands on deck (private and public partnership) to solve it. The Government, Ministry of Interior, Ghana Music Rights Organisation (GHAMRO) copyright Administration, Customs, Police and the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General’s Office must work together to create the Copyright Tribunal as required by Section 51-58 of the copyright law.

If you arrest a pirate and send him or her to a Magistrate Court, the fine would not amount to anything. It would be controlled by the limitations of that court. But a Copyright Tribunal can impose the maximum punishment on offenders.

Section 41-47 of the Copyright law and section 29 of its legislative instrument deals with infringement and prosecution of pirates. We need to enforce the law by arresting and sending culprits to court and then jailing them to act as deterrent to would-be offenders.

We must not spare anyone who infringes the copyright law. It is the only way to save the music industry.

Today, offenders of the copyright law are gradually but effectively chasing out genuine producers, publishers and even composers from the music industry because these offenders are able to hi-jack the original products for illegal reproduction in commercial quantities.

We need to fight the pirates on all fronts and by all means to help copyright owners to realise the full benefit of their works and promote the music industry.

If this is not done, the music industry would be liquidated. And authors and composers shall not see the need to write books, compose music or make films because no-one would like to sell one copy of his work to be illegally multiplied into millions for cheap sales.

There is piracy on the internet, on the streets, in some hide-outs and virtually everywhere. Let’s fight the pirates day and night, rain or shine.

People do not even know that basic activity such as peer to peer files sharing of digital content involving copyright protected work, such as music, video, soft ware, ebook, ipods and tutorials constitute piracy if money is exchanged and without prior authorisation of the original creators.

In the strict sense of the word, people who share files (especially music & video) on their phones with other people, by way of Bluetooth, or any other wired means for money are guilty of piracy.

We need to educate the public through workshops, press releases and articles. We need the players in the music industry to solicit the views of stakeholders in the music industry, policy makers and the populace at large for a blue print to GHAMRO and the Copyright office, and eventually to government for the best way to combat piracy in Ghana.

Source: Ghanaian Times

Posted by on May 16 2013. Filed under Artcultainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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