Malawi musicians in piracy war

The story about some people reaping where they never sowed has bothered some musicians in Malawi so much that they have decided to do something about it.

The artists have since vowed that with or without the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma), they will fight tooth and nail to root out piracy which has crippled the local music industry and left many destitute.

Some of the artists are renowned musicians Soldier Lucius Banda and one-time highest music seller of the year Lawrence Mbenjere. The two have since stood up to fight piracy of their productions using personal means.

Banda, whose four previous albums have suffered huge piracy, is running an initiative together with music promoter and seller Dolphins, to fight the malpractice by using heavily-built men who walk around the cities and locations, checking in places where people record and reproduce audio and visual materials.

According to Banda, the initiative, which is in its third year, is proving to be a success.

Just last year, the initiative saw eight fraudsters being cornered for pirating Banda’s music and various pirated materials and computers were confiscated.

“The initiative is a success. The only problem with it is that it is happening at individual level. If we had teamed up, piracy could have been history by now. But the problem is that artists have different interests and it also depends on how much one sells.

“Cosoma has no capacity now and it requires us to stand up together and protect our productions,” said Banda.

He then asked government to find ways of improving services at Cosoma, saying as artists, they pay taxes which guarantee protection of their products as stipulated in the country’s Constitution.

But Banda said although his efforts are yielding results, the police are not helping him.

He said he monitored all the eight suspects he caught last year, but none of them has been brought to book and wonders if government really feels piracy is a challenge to artists.

Mbenjere, who obtained an authorisation from Cosoma recently to deal with people who pirate his music, said lack of support from the organisation and the police is a setback.

He said various materials he confiscated are gathering dust at Cosoma offices in Lilongwe, waiting for legal action.

“I am an inspector of my products. I walk around checking where my music is being pirated. The initiative has been successful. I have confiscated various studio materials from various studio workers and some well-known music distributors who were pirating my music. But all the materials are at Cosoma waiting for legal action,” said Mbenjere.

Shemu Joyah, who has made a name in the world of art through his movie Seasons of a Life, feels it is high time all artists stood up to protect their products from piracy instead of relying on Cosoma.

While commending the steps taken by Banda and Mbenjere, Joyah thinks CD and DVD protection is the only solution to fight piracy.

“Piracy is worse at the moment and the only way is to protect our CDs and DVDs. When I released Seasons of a Life, I went to South Africa at Compact Disc Technologies where I protected my movie and it sold well.

“People cannot burn it. Those who attempt to do so do not get the same quality because it is encrypted. When copied, sound and video quality is affected and so they cannot sell it,” he said.

He, however, admitted that the service is expensive, but pointed out that it is cheap when one is protecting many CDs and DVDs at once.

He said the service will soon be offered in the country as a certain individual in Lilongwe’s Area 13 is installing software to start protecting CDs.

“Piracy has really transformed my entire success story into pains. I cannot see sunshine ahead of me if piracy is not defeated. I got only a fraction of what I invested in my last album and my efforts to release The Best of Lloyd Phiri DVD to raise cash for my new album yielded nothing. I am now helpless and unable to release my new album,” renowned gospel icon Lloyd Phiri said.

Another gospel musician, Peter Uyu Mlangeni, whose Amandikonda album was among the best albums in 2011, told Society that he is struggling to release his new album because his last album suffered serious piracy.

During an anti piracy spot-check in Mzuzu recently, Cosoma licensing manager Mutty Munkhondia revealed that his office is understaffed and, therefore, cannot cope with growing piracy in the country.

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