MULTICHOICE Zimbabwe general manager Siyabulela Jemsana says the illegal copying and sharing of content, including movies and television shows from torrent sites, is threatening millions of livelihoods and undermining the future of the creative industry worldwide.

Jemsana made the remarks ahead of tomorrow’s anti-piracy workshop to be held under the theme: A Culture of Learning: Building Zimbabwean Creative Sector Brick by Brick at a local hotel in Harare.

The workshop, meant to raise awareness of and curb piracy, is an effort of MultiChoice Zimbabwe in partnership with the local arts mother body, National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ).

In the face of spiralling piracy of films, television shows, music, software, literary works and other creative content, African economies, Zimbabwe not excluded, are losing millions of dollars in revenue.

“Current estimates put the global cost of content piracy at US$71 billion each year and this amount grows each year as content pirates get more sophisticated in their illegal copying and sharing efforts, and consumers continue to turn to pirated content for their entertainment fix.

“This massive loss of income is more than the gross domestic product of whole geographical regions! Zimbabwe is not spared from this, and our creative sectors are suffering,” Jemsana noted.

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“Local actors, actresses, producers, directors, sound engineers, cameramen and all the people employed in our creative industries lose out when pirates steal content. Beyond the film and television sector, piracy affects software, music, literature and other fields. This prevents Zimbabwean creatives from being able to tell our own stories and has a devastating knock-on effect on the Zimbabwe economy.”

Jemsana said MultiChoice Zimbabwe had been at the forefront of the battle against content piracy hence being a member of Partners Against Piracy, a pan-African campaign established specifically to fight piracy, support content-producing industries and protect creatives from job losses because of piracy.

He said joining hands with the arts council was meant to ensure greater impact of anti-piracy efforts in Zimbabwe.

“As a leader in local and international video entertainment, MultiChoice Zimbabwe has long addressed the issue of pirated content with Zimbabwean audiences through its television channels and on its digital platforms, raising awareness of this crime and how consumers can avoid falling prey to it,” he said.

The anti-piracy workshop takes place on the backdrop of the World Intellectual Property Day commemorated on April 26, and within Culture Month, celebrated annually in May.

This year’s edition of Culture Month is being commemorated under the theme Our culture: Building Zimbabwe Brick by Brick reflects the national drive to implement the national development strategy.

Jemsana said the workshop would raise awareness on intellectual property and piracy within the arts and culture sector targeting both up-and-coming and mainstream artists and key stakeholders in the cultural and creative industries.

The workshop will also highlight the importance of public-private co-operation in the fight against piracy and safeguarding copyright.

“Piracy poses a legitimate industry threat, and immediate action must be taken to stop pirates and protect the rights of content creators and providers. This action must come from the united efforts of government institutions, entertainment businesses and all professionals working in the creative industries,” Jemsana noted.

“This first workshop being jointly hosted by NACZ and MultiChoice Zimbabwe, is supported by Zimbabwe Music Rights Association and the Zimbabwe International Film Festival Trust. It promises to go a long way in educating the public about the seriousness of this problem and better protecting our artists.”

NACZ acting director Barbara Gotore said Zimbabwe was home to a rich and dynamic creative sector with huge potential for growth, but piracy was undermining this potential and actualised growth.

“The prevalence of piracy can be attributed to a number of contributory factors, including the scarcity and high cost of genuine products, poverty, poor distribution networks, a slow judicial system, and new digital technologies that easily enable the illegal, mass reproduction of copyright protected works,” she said.