Varsities criticised over piracy

HARARE - Zimcopy, the country’s sole royalties collecting society for authors and written works, says universities are the major perpetrators of book piracy.

Greenfield Chilongo, the Zimcopy executive director, told a recent capacity building workshop on intellectual property royalties that the country’s institutions of education were refusing to acknowledge their high dependence on photocopying.

“Our main challenge in Zimbabwe as far as administration of copyright is concerned is that we are failing to successfully negotiate with universities which are the major users,” said Chilongo.

“To negotiate with universities is a big headache. They claim that they don’t have money and that they are not photocopying, and students are not reproducing. But when you walk into the universities and libraries you find books that are being copied.”

The Zimcopy executive director added that photocopying has become rampant in the country because most books are out of print.

“Because most books are out of print, they do depend on photocopying and sometimes you sympathise with parents, you want the students to read as widely as possible in order for them to get the best grades they can have.”

Chilongo said voluntary licensing is only suitable for developed countries because of their respect of intellectual property.

“Voluntary licensing is mainly used in America and Canada .In these countries they believe in the rule of law and they respect intellectual property.

Even their university lecturers are professors who write books that they are using,” said the Zimcopy boss.

“When we move to the Third World you find that most of the university lecturers may not have written a single book. So their attachment to copyright is not that strong; so they don’t feel it when someone is infringing their copyright.”

Chilongo gave suggestions on how copyright can sustainably be protected in the country.

“There is a model which can be used in literature and music in which the law says everyone is allowed to reproduce for a fee. This is used in France and Germany and seems to work effectively.

“Under this model as long as users pay the necessary fees, collecting organisations (like Zimcopy) won’t run around asking people to pay up.

“And in instances where there are problems, the Government can even come up with a fee structure for example if it is a hotel, it can pay in accordance with the rooms they have because all of them have television sets etc.”

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