Good people, blaming new technologies for widespread piracy is a trite excuse.
In this country, we once blamed a computer programme for Cashgate when the devil actually lied in the long fingers, bottomless potbellies, ill intentions and highly remunerated inaction of fat cats paid to prevent the looting of public resources.
Silence outside the court.
On Tuesday, High Court judge Dingiswayo Madise spoke well on piracy.
Right, that’s it. Will the last person left on planet earth who does not have an opinion on the crime that silently impoverishes artists make yourself known please?
The Daily Mirror asked as much when Irish wrestling superstar Sheamus joined global bashing of footie star Alex Sanchez whose move from Arsenal to Manchester United has been talk of several towns worldwide.
“The thing is about Alexis Sanchez, it’s all about money,” says Sheamus. “Last year, he stopped caring, stopped putting any effort in. Why do you want a player like that?”
“Arsenal are much better without him. They can build a team around players who actually want to stay,” he said.
What he said obviously excited me and all Arsenal supporters who feel Sanchez betrayed their favourite team.
But equally exciting to campaigners for justice for creative minds in is what the High Court judge said at a Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) meeting to popularise the amended Copyright Act in Mzuzu.
Said Madise: “If piracy is crime, a police officer doesn’t need to wait for Cosoma to tell them so. They just have to arrest the culprit and take them to court. If we wait for Cosoma to tell us what to do, then we are failing our job.”
The police officers cannot keep choosing laws to enforce and not to.
Sheamus would have added: “The whole thing about selective policing is about kickbacks.”
But Madise is not a wrestler.
At Mzuzu Court House, I was a frequent pilgrim in his chambers where he imposed life sentence on one Sam Kaumba convicted of attempting to slaughter an 11-year-old with albinism in Karonga like a chicken.
The maximum sentence, the first since the late Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa sentenced admitted gays to 14 years in jail in 2011, divided lawyers wired to think maximum penalties are reserved for the worst offender not yet born.
Madise said the long-awaited worst offender was finally in court.
Back to the new Copyright law that prescribes a fine of K5 million for the worst offender, Madise says the fines are “very good” and the courts must impose them to stop violations.
“We don’t need to shy away,” he said.
This tough talk is good.
But it will not be good enough unless the police start enforce laws indiscriminately.
A country where law enforcers choose to do nothing about numerous laws in preference for traffic offences and kickbacks is lawless.
This could be the reason the 110km Lilongwe-Mchinji Road is clogged with more police officers and checkpoints than you seen on over 800 km trip from Mwami Border in Mchinji to Zambia capital, Lusaka.
This is why armed cops that accompany city rangers on missions to grab goods from vendors spotted in wrong places where music pirates operate freely are later seen buying from equally culpable vendors in the unlawful places.
When lawmakers raised the fine for piracy, they acknowledged that it steals a fortune from artists and there is need to end lax approaches to this deep-rooted bloodless crime.
Unauthorised sharing of works of art is theft, everyday break-in wrecking artists’ shops as law enforcers look away.
“The law says copying someone’s work is an offence and every police officer should be able to enforce the law,” clarified Madise.
Silence at Area 30! The judge is speaking.
If authorities at police headquarters needed any awakening, Madise’s sermon in Mzuzu is that wake-up.
Piracy thrives on official laxity and moral decay. n