David Waweru KPA chairman (L),Darius Mogaka(Center) director of policy of East Africa affairs and Simon Sossoin manager director spotlight publishers Limited display some books with security tags
NAIROBI, KENYA: An electronic system to discourage piracy has been unveiled sending a warning to booksellers and buyers that they risk prosecution if caught with pirated books.
This follows the development of an information technology (IT)-based solution that instantly informs a customer if he or she has bought a genuine or pirated book.
The move which targets dealers in counterfeit products, universities, parents, hawkers, principals and head teachers, secondary and primary students is aimed at curbing book piracy that threatens the multi-billion publishing industry and the education sector.
The tool, developed by Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) has first been embedded on this year's Literature and Fasihi set books.
The books are Kigogo by Pauline Kea, The Pearl by John Steinbeck, Tumbo Lisiloshiba na Hadithi Nyingine by Said Mohammed and Memories We Lost and Other Stories by Chris Wanjala.
The books have been affixed with unique hidden numbers at the front, inside or back which buyers can use to verify whether they are buying authentic books.
Using mobile technology, the initiative makes it possible for parents, teachers and students to distinguish between pirated and genuine books by tracking each and every uniquely serialised book.
They are supposed to scratch the panel on the CHKTAG affixed to the book to reveal the PIN, enter the PIN into the KPA SMS short code 22776, send and seconds later a reply will confirm the book and other vital information to verify. The SMS is free and can be sent using Safaricom or Airtel lines.
The technology only allows one person to buy a book. If a second or third buys the same book, they receive notifications that they have bought counterfeits.
Using the second and third person's mobile lines, developers of the technology-Brand ID-can trace where the book was bought and arrest those involved.
The set-books have been first targeted because they are the most pirated. But all books published by KPA will have the unique codes.
Speakers at the 'Piracy is a crime! Say No to Piracy' launch at the KICD on Tuesday, called for collaborated efforts, amendment of laws to provide stiffer penalties for pirates and strict enforcement of the law to curb the vice.
Darius Mogaka, a director of policy at the Ministry of Education who represented Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang'i noted that the ministry is working on this and other evidence based solutions to transform the education sector.
"We together with KPA and KICD last year commissioned a survey on instruction materials and were shocked to find out that half of the books used countrywide are pirated," Mogaka said.
Based on the findings, the ministry has developed an instruction material policy to address the shortcomings in the public schools.
"The policy will be validated next week and we are looking into procurement of instruction materials and if we have to adopt a central book distribution system and an advanced information management system to curb theft and wastage of books," Mogaka said.
He warned school heads, university lecturers and student for being on the forefront for using pirated books and called on them to be abandon the illegal practice.
"Walk into any public and private university, and you will notice long queues of students photocopying unauthorised books. Lecturers also go abroad buy books, photocopy them and sell to their students," Mogaka said.
He added, "The university lecturers being at the epitome of our education sector should protect intellectual property rights. I am calling on law enforcers to arrest those involved in this, including photocopy businesses that are thriving around learning institutions."
Mogaka indicated that Government will soon adopt a system where booksellers deliver books to schools and once it is confirmed the books have reached the intended schools, they will then be paid.
"This will help us rein in head teachers and school management board officers who receive and verify books in their schools, then sell them to pirates. Head teachers also stage fires in their institutions to mask their theft of books," Mogaka said.
KPA chairman David Waweru said the loss associated with piracy is massive.
"The estimated loss is about Sh7 billion annually. The greater loss is poor quality books schools get affecting the quality of learning, loss of revenue to Government and loss of jobs," Waweru said.
Simon Sossion, chairman of the KPA anti-piracy sub-committee said 30 per cent of the books used in schools are counterfeit while 40 per cent of Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) set-books are counterfeit," Sossion said.
"About 70 per cent of the pirated books carry wrong content, having incorrect, mixed up or missing pages. But with this technology, traders in counterfeit or pirated books will no longer dupe unsuspecting consumers," Sossion said.
He called for the amendment of the Copyright Act 2009 to elevate piracy into an economic crime making the penalties stiffer.
"The fine of between Sh400,000 and Sh800,000 or 10 years imprisonment or both is minimal because the pirates make billions of shillings," Sossion said.
He added, "I thank the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) for a new marine insurance policy requiring all imports to insure their imports locally. This will help in tracing importers of counterfeit books."
Julius Sigei of the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) and Kasper Oluoch of Anti-Counterfeit Authority promised to work with KPA to stem the vice.
"Publishing is one of the best three industries in Sub Saharan Africa, contributing Sh24 billion to the economy and we will not let it die," Sigei said.
Allan Thomson of Brand ID said the new technology will increase the sale and profit of KPA members.
John Kimotho, the deputy chief executive of KICD said the institute and Government are developing a system to monitor movement of books.
"The Kenya Education Cloud system will monitor both digital and physical distribution of books, tracking their presence so that when a book is set to a wrong location, we arrest those involved," Kimotho said.