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Why Are Copyright Violators Not Punished In Zimbabwe?

Stealing books through photocopying is piracy and an infringes on the original creators' rights. Image by Unsplash

BY THABANI H. MOYO | @thabanih | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | APR 10, 2022

Piracy is intellectual theft. Those who pirate works of art are stealing from the creators and their families.

BULAWAYO (The Citizen Bulletin) — The original creators of works protected by copyright, and their heirs, have certain basic rights.

They hold the exclusive right to use or authorize others to use the work on agreed terms. The creator of a work can prohibit or authorize its reproduction in various forms, such as printed publication or sound recording.

But this seems not to be the case in most parts of Zimbabwe because of piracy.

Why is legal action not taken against these law breakers?

Writing is a cumbersome job. To fill an empty page with words is not an easy job. Writers make their living through writing and selling books. Some writers self-publish their works and sell them while others rely on publishers.

The book industry in Zimbabwe is facing a lot of challenges. Books have a very small market in Zimbabwe because of a poor reading culture.

Due to the shrinking market in the book industry most writers and publishers have targeted the education sector as their biggest market. Every writer cherishes the moment that their works are selected for study in schools.

The education curriculum demands that novels, plays and poetry are studied at each and every level. The education sector also needs a lot of books in the form of textbooks.

The current situation on the ground is very bad for writers and publishers. Education institutions like schools, colleges and universities are no longer buying books. Most institutions have transferred this responsibility to the learner. Learners must buy their own literature books and textbooks to enable them to learn in class. This has seen an upsurge in photocopying and scanning of literature books and textbooks by learners including business people in violation of piracy and copyright laws.

Photocopying and scanning books means that the owner of the work, the writer, is getting nothing from their trade.

The person photocopying and scanning books and selling them to the public is a thief and must be arrested.

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What is mind boggling is that places where bulk photocopying of literature books and textbooks are known. Police have ignored these places and made no arrests. Lately, there have been reports of anti-piracy officers visiting schools and confiscating photocopied textbooks.

This cancer of illegal photocopying books and selling them needs a multi-faceted approach to arrest the vice. The central government also needs to see that schools are well resourced to buy learning materials in the form of books.

If the situation of book piracy is left unchecked as it is the case, the book industry will be destroyed.

No writer will continue writing knowing that they will not benefit anything. No publisher will continue publishing and making losses. Those who have made it their duty to steal books through photocopying must know that their activities are nothing but criminal.