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Piracy war turns to music videos

By | December 11th 2009 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

It is 30 years since The Buggles released Video Killed the Radio Star, celebrating the golden days of radio but also describing a singer whose career is cut short by television.

The song topped several music charts and was the first music video shown on MTV on August 1, 1981.

Today most musicians are forced not only to record audio but also video. The trend is catching on and many local artistes are now releasing videos to complement audios, a far cry from five years ago.

These videos are redefining the growth but music industry insiders are raising a red flag.

"The new wave is providing fresh fodder for already galloping piracy levels," says Anthony Karani, a city-based music retailer and distributor.

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Mushrooming video deejays outfits have a field day, churning out video clips compilations which are popular with urban population and matatus.

There are indications the videos are mass reproduced, complete with V-deejay outfit telephone contacts. "This is broad daylight piracy. If I bought songs rights from the producer or artiste, I cannot recoup much from initial investment," argues Karani, who runs Times Square Entertainment music distribution label.

The label is authorised to market audio and videos by Ogopa Deejays, among other Kenyan and Tanzanian musicians.

Pirated sound recordings are common, an estimate 85 per cent of videos sold mainly in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and major urban towns, are reportedly unlicensed.

Lacking Structures

"The existing vacuum emanates from inappropriate copyright control structures – a loophole that precipitates, vicious turf wars revolving around multi-million shillings industry," says Albert Shehi, leader of Pressmen band.

According to statistics, about 3,000 exhibition stalls and music shop owners in Nairobi’s CBD have been victims of pseudo "anti-piracy" raids fronted by self-styled music industry "regulators" and dodgy police officers.

These unscrupulous cartels operate in wanton, disregard of the existing legislation to tighten grip on the lucrative sector. Counterfeit sound carriers CDs, VCDs and DVDs are sold through intricate networks, raking huge untaxed profits.

"I’m working on my album but not counting on making an impact locally in terms of sales. The government has abandoned musicians as pirates mint money," observes artiste Chris Mwema.

For distributors of legitimate CDs and VCDs, under priced CDs and VCDs is a temporal option, a stop-gap measures undertaken in efforts to combat pirates selling sub-standard products for as little as Sh20 to Sh50.

Copyright law

The fact pirates enjoy low overheads advantage compels retailers to reduce original CDs and VCDs prices.

"This cuts down profit margins. We must seek ways of dealing with pirates or close shop," says producer Samuel Mbugua aka TT Solomon.

Stakeholders hit out against the Kenya Copyright Board for ineptitude and failure to deliver tangible results – six years after official enactment of the Copyright Act No. 12 of 2003.

Estimate figures reveal cartels bank rolling merchants of counterfeit music owe Kenya Revenue Authority upto Sh900, 000 million every year in unpaid VAT.

The Copyright Act No 12 of 2003 protects sound and music video recordings with violations liable to Sh500,000 fine or five years imprisonment or both.

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