Rights Holders Launch Initiative To Protect Content In Africa 26/08/2010 by Dugie Standeford for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Foreign content producers and broadcasters hope the soon-to-be-launched Africa Media Rights Watch will help convince the region’s regulators and consumers alike to increase respect for copyright. DISCOP, which organises television content markets in emerging regions, opened shop in Africa last year to bring together broadcasters seeking African and international programming with content distributors, DISCOP Africa Executive Manager Cherise Barsell said in a 24 August interview. But with film and TV piracy rampant in Africa, Basic Lead, the organiser of DISCOP Africa, and consultant Balancing Act-Africa decided to see how the problem affects the continent’s audiovisual sector, she said. Basic Lead is headquartered in Paris and Los Angeles. Cost is King Pirated DVDs and CDs, broadcasts and cable programming caused the greatest financial losses, according to the 2009 survey prepared by Sylvain Béletre of Balancing Act. Some broadcasters are themselves major infringers who “forget” to pay copyright royalties to producers or distributors, he said. Hacking pay-TV is another common practice in some countries, and some rights abuses come from inside production houses where employees copy productions they are working on and distribute them. All content, whether local or foreign, is pirated, the poll found. Hollywood and Nollywood (Nigerian) films and series are key targets, followed by Bollywood productions, sports events, Latin American telenovelas and local productions other than Nollywood, it found. European content is the least affected. Awareness and enforcement of copyright varies widely across African countries, Béletre wrote. To consumers, “what matters is the cost and the quality of the copy made,” he said. Apart from a few nations where efforts have been made to educate buyers about the value of content, most people think piracy is tolerated, he said. But piracy is stoppable, most respondents said. Many people see foreign content as “free for all” because there are no local voices advocating for it, but most respondents agreed that theft of local productions is bad for the film industry, national economy and local culture, the survey found. Local content has tended to receive better treatment, the survey found. What emerged from the inquiry was a group of key international players, including South African pay-TV platform M-NET, independent distributor Cote Ouest and Canal+Overseas, who were worried about piracy and wanted to do something about it, Barsell said. It is unclear to what extent people who use unauthorised content in these countries would otherwise pay for it. Industry Lobby Group Created The level of concern prompted a DISCOP forum last year that drew huge interest from producers unable to sell their content in their home countries as well as from broadcasters, Barsell said. DISCOP decided to create a long-term body to address the issues, and Africa Media Rights Watch was born, she said. It settled on the key issues it will focus on last year, and will discuss budget and other matters at the 1-3 September DISCOP in Nairobi, Kenya, she said. The initiative will officially launch at the February 2011 DISCOP in Accra, Ghana, she said. The AMRW’s chief members and funding sources will be rights holders, but it will admit broadcasters, regulators, lawyers and others as associates, Barsell said. The initiative’s main goal is to build awareness among regulators about the issues and how they can tackle piracy, she said. Resistance from regulators to the industry group is unlikely, she said. The AMRW will investigate acts of piracy, as major players already do, in order to give smaller rights owners the same tools, Barsell said. There will be a complaint link on the organisation’s website where companies can report evidence of unauthorised use of content and send information directly to regulators and broadcasters. This will help build uniform pressure on broadcast regulators to address problems they have notice of, and, in the future, AMRW will provide legal assistance as well, she said. The AMRW has not connected with other rights groups such as the World Intellectual Property Organization and European and US copyright offices but there is no reason for such bodies to not to cooperate with each other, Barsell said. A French anti-piracy association attended the first roundtable, and the AMRW hopes to cooperate with South Africa’s as well, she said. [Updated:] One South African trademark lawyer welcomed the initiative but questioned whether sub-Saharan copyright laws and enforcement agencies are “up to the challenge.” The only countries with proper anti-counterfeiting legislation in the region are Kenya and South Africa, said Darren Olivier, head of brand enforcement at Bowman Gilfillan and co-founder of the blog site Afro-IP. And South African’s copyright law is a 1978 act “in dire need of a refresher.” he told Intellectual Property Watch. Search and seizure raids have been conducted in other sub-Saharan nations but sometimes under laws designed to prevent fraud, not protect IP rights, Olivier said. “I am afraid that most officials, magistrates and even the odd judge become glazed over on the mention of copyright,” so there is lots of work to do, he added. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Dugie Standeford may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Rights Holders Launch Initiative To Protect Content In Africa" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.