Digital video piracy costs the entertainment industry up to $71 billion every year, according to the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center – harming businesses, destroying lives and livelihoods, and stifling economic growth.
This huge industry loss – more than the annual gross domestic product of Mozambique, Uganda and Guinea combined – represents the impact on the US entertainment sector alone. The economic impact on the rest of the world is similarly catastrophic.
No country looking to build a creative industry can afford to lose this income. For this reason, MultiChoice Botswana, has thrown its weight behind Partners Against Piracy (PAP), a Pan-African campaign to fight content piracy. PAP works to protect the livelihoods of the thousands of creatives and broadcast professionals and support the local economy.
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.
According to digital platform security specialists Irdeto, there were more than 345 million visits to the top 10 global streaming piracy sites in the three months from June to August 2021. Major African markets Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa saw a total of around 16 million visits over the same period.
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.
In Botswana, the nature of content piracy and content theft comes in the form of Broadcasting piracy. Broadcasting piracy involves the use of video and audio content without the consent of rightsholders. It can take many forms, but in Botswana, the main form we are 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 illegally connected.
For many years, this kind of behaviour has plagued our local economy and creative industry with hundreds of entities cropping up in Botswana, working hand-in-hand with illegal entities in South Africa, enabling locals to consume South African content outside of its jurisdiction.
What local consumers of South African content via illegal decoders or fraudulently acquired subscriptions fail to realise is that the content being consumed is produced, licensed and/or commissioned for a specific audience. Consumption of the content elsewhere negatively impacts the content owners and also infringes on laws which rule on where the content is meant to be consumed.
“Our country is determined to clamp down on content piracy, and we are proud to join Partners Against Piracy in this fight,” said MultiChoice Botswana Managing Director, Lorato Mwape. “Piracy has a serious negative effect on our economy and on the ability of our creative professionals to earn a living. 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.”
PAP is a multi-stakeholder awareness programme to help fight the piracy menace, by educating 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.
For over 8 years, regular raids of piracy operations have been conducted in Botswana as MultiChoice Botswana has worked tirelessly with the Botswana Police Service as well as the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority in an attempt to turn the tide against piracy on a commercial scale.
In 2018, MultiChoice Botswana launched a local relevance campaign titled #ReMoteng which highlights the contributions the organization has been able to make over the past 29 years thanks to local subscriptions. “Over the years we have been committed to playing a socio-economic contribution to Botswana thanks to our loyal customers, and we realise now more than ever the importance of ensuring that our customers know the impact they are making through these local subscriptions.”
Focus is now being paid on ensuring that the public is aware of the detriment caused by pirating activities from a consumer perspective as well as from a supplier perspective. “Piracy is not only the concern of MultiChoice Botswana, and that is why we are working with the government, the Regulator and the creative sector to drive the message home on the dangers of Piracy and the world of opportunities available to our creative industry and our economy, once we grab control of this situation,” adds Mwape.