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Law tightens screws on video sellers


As the Copyright Board of Kenya prepares to enforce the newly implemented authentication device, video sellers are closing down.

“We do not know what will happen when this law takes effect, but we do not want to take any chances so we are clearing these remaining videos,” said a vendor who sought anonymity as they prepared to clear stocks.

The Sh12 million Kenya Copyright Board’s authentication system will boost the fight against piracy.

All retailers and distributors of audiovisual material will now be forced to have a three-dimensional holographic symbol placed on all copies to show they are not pirated.

The hologram is embossed in a unique sticker supplied by the Copyright Board at Sh10 for each piece.

The new move was aimed at guarding against piracy by ensuring that only certified distributors and producers dealing with original audiovisual material are allowed.

According to the Copyright Board, over 90% of the videos and CDs sold in Kenya are pirated.
The vice has grown over the years with the developments in technology.

The arrival of the fibre optic cables have made Internet access easily available and made downloading speeds faster, thus making movie downloads faster.

Reduced costs of computers and duplicators coupled, with increased accessibility of video imaging and editing software, have all seen more players move in on the underground industry.

Vendors have been subscribing to websites like rapidshare.net, movies-megaupload.com and piratebay.com and downloading and mass-producing the videos for sale.

But for some traders, they have adopted a wait-and-see option as the Copyright Board of Kenya is yet to make good on its threat to raid and shut down illegal retailers.

A spot check last week showed that in places like River Road, Muthurwa Market and Mfangano Street, mass production, packing and selling of pirated audiovisual material continues.

As a result, many legitimate video rental vendors have been put out of business and other music producers and sellers have continued to suffer as their music and videos are mass-produced and sold without authorisation.

But some players in the music industry seem to have mixed views on the law and information is scanty.

Some artists feel that not much has been done to educate them on the new regulation.

“I heard that there was a meeting between stakeholders and the Kenya Copyright Board from a friend but I do not know much about it. I also do not know what the regulators are doing because I was recently in Eldoret and bought my own CD from a vendor who did not even recognise me,” said Eunice Njeri, a gospel artiste.

“I think Sh10 is too expensive. It should be Sh1 or free especially if it is for regulators,” she said.
However, the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) that is the statutory body in charge of safeguarding the intellectual rights of music artistes says they have so far not received any complaints from their members.

According to Richard Sereti, an MCSK official, the society is still waiting on communication from the Copyright Board of Kenya.

“MCSK is still waiting on communication from the Copyright Board of Kenya regarding the role of our members in all this, but so far we have not received any complaints or objections from our members,” said Sereti.

The Copyright Board, on the other hand, remains upbeat that the war on piracy is on course to being won.

Edward Sigei, the board’s director, said the authentication device has been well received and the board is looking on a national roll-out.

“We have so far registered about 150 producers and are reaching to markets in Kericho and Mombasa,” he said. “Soon we shall be launching the device nationwide.”

Competition in the industry remains stiff and peculiar entertainment habits of Kenyans provide a ready market, at the same time challenging legitimate music and video businesses to ensure the extra accreditation costs do not eat into their profit margins.

Other players in the industry have raised concerns that the extra costs will be detrimental to the industry.

“Artistes who do not understand the law will not want to comply and we will not be able to sell their music,” said an owner of one of the major music distributors in the city.

For example, for a Tanzanian gospel music artiste who wants to sell in Kenya, this law increases the cost of a video and CD.

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