Culture is the lifeblood of a people, and the arts sector is the central part of a country’s culture. With regularity we read about piracy hampering the development of our arts sector. Mostly, it is musicians and film makers who are plagued by the vice, and robbed of the fruits of their labor. This makes it impossible to make a living off the arts, and to invest the proceeds in new projects. That way they can never reach a professional level and the Malawian arts remain at the low level that they are now. Internationally, Malawian arts do not make a dent, because of piracy.
The remedy proposed tends to be new laws and stiffer penalties. But that does nothing if the law is not enforced. And that is where the real problem lies: implementation. In development circles this phenomenon is referred to as the “implementation gap”. The gap between policy formulated and policy implemented. In Malawi the implementation gap is of GARGANTUAN proportion. So many policies are developed and then left to gather dust in some dusty office while the population suffers, and nothing is done on the ground.
In the case of piracy, the same is true. Walk onto the market and you see pirated materials offered openly, and nothing is being done. Even on BBC radio and television a music pirate showed his criminal business openly, and apparently the criminal is not afraid of law enforcement. We need to change that, and the organization whose responsibility this is is COSOMA. COSOMA has the monopoly on collecting copyrights, which they try to do from radio and television stations with variable success. But they do not go onto the market to confront the pirates there. Piracy on the coast of Somalia is down because the European Union, USA and others sent warships to enforce the law there. But piracy on the public road of Malawi is blossoming like never before. COSOMA needs to gather a group of strong police officers, go onto our markets and confiscate all pirated materials and arrest the pirates. This needs to be done with regularity.
Think back of operation Dongosolo: it worked for only a few weeks because it was not enforced continuously. If we enforce our copyright laws continuously on our streets, and confiscate and make arrests, piracy will not die out, but it will be limited significantly, which will contribute to the growth of our arts sector, which is the lifeblood of every people’s culture. And we will be able to grow, make an impact internationally and the job opportunities in the sector will increase. All positive effects of simple enforcement of existing regulation.