The Ministry of Trade and Industry plans to carry out countrywide raids on vendors who sell pirated material.
This follows successful raids in Francistown last year where some 3000 CDs and DVDs, which did not have holograms, were confiscated.
The uniqueness of the upcoming raids is that the victims of this piracy will get to participate. A press statement put out last week says that the Botswana Musicians Union, “as copyright owners, are willing to join hands in the upcoming raids”.
BOMU president, Socca Moruakgomo, says that his organisation would be more than willing to join these raids.
Culprits nabbed during the Francistown raid were fined P500 each for the offence since they were first offenders and given a stern warning. They should consider themselves lucky.
The Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act provides for fines up to P20 000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or both.
Says the statement: “Similar operations/raids were conducted in Gaborone in 2009 with different departments, such as the Police, Botswana Defence Force, Immigration, Copyright Office and the Trade and Consumer Affairs (Licensing Division). The Registrar of Companies and Intellectual Property has once again written to the police to assist in similar operations countrywide by April 2010.”
Raiders go after material that does not have a hologram, a 20mm x 20mm temper-proof sticker with security features which is attached to all sound and audio visual recordings such as CDs, DVDs and cassettes made available to the public in Botswana through sale, rental, lending or distribution in any other manner.
Its purpose is to authenticate sound and audio visual recordings to fight piracy. The person who purchases the hologram must be the owner of the work or must have authorisation by the owner of the work to use the work.
Although he feels that the public education campaigns can be intensified, Moruakgomo says that on the whole, the hologram has been of tremendous help.
On its own, BOMU has also been trying to fight piracy. The issue was discussed at the Union’s last consultative meeting in Francistown. There have been instances when the Union’s members have raided piracy hotspots like Tlokweng and Mogoditshane.
According to Moruakgomo, a majority of the culprit are foreigners who ply their trade from rented houses in the periphery of Gaborone.
“One of the major difficulties we face is that landlords protect them to ensure that rent money keeps coming in,” he says.
The other frustration they have to contend with is that after discovering a pirating operation, BOMU members have to call the police who, in some cases, show up after the culprits have fled the scene.
While he cannot say how much pirating costs them in sales, Moruakgomo says that the money involved is quite substantial.
“There are instances when the music is pirated before it is even released. Some of the pirates print more copies than do the owners of the work and also have a wider geographical reach in terms of distribution of the pirated material,” he adds.
Random though they are, the raids on pirated material are part of a systematic effort to counter the impact of global recession that the national economy is just easing out of. In tackling the recession, MTI undertook to intensify awareness on intellectual property issues targeting specific sectors to encourage Batswana to commercialise their creations.