Time to take copyrights seriously

Contrary to that old adage that imitation (not copying or clipping, but actually doing like somebody has) is the highest form of flattery, counterfeiting, the use of other people's brand images, trademarks and unauthorised appropriation of other people's intellectual property (the product of their creative minds or sweat) is a serious crime, punishable by considerable prison time accompanied by heavy monetary fines in many jurisdictions.
Some of the products under the Made-in-Rwanda initiative on display at a past expo. / File
Some of the products under the Made-in-Rwanda initiative on display at a past expo. / File

Editor,

RE: “Made-in-Rwanda: How will local brands protect their copyrights?” (The New Times, December 7).

Contrary to that old adage that imitation (not copying or clipping, but actually doing like somebody has) is the highest form of flattery, counterfeiting, the use of other people's brand images, trademarks and unauthorised appropriation of other people's intellectual property (the product of their creative minds or sweat) is a serious crime, punishable by considerable prison time accompanied by heavy monetary fines in many jurisdictions.

Some years back I was frankly shocked to see some local artistes, musicians and journalists attacking Cecile Kayirebwa for going to court to enforce her right for her work to be played publicly ONLY with her express authorisation.

Clearly, the concept of copyright, trademarks, registered brands and the idea that you need the owner's license to be able to use them is alien in our society — including among those copyright laws were meant to protect, those who labour in the creative industries (for labour and industries they are).

Some people clearly believe there is no harm to just clip (really pilfering) the output of someone else's creative efforts and calling it their own. And yet Rwanda wants to turn itself into a hub for IT development, which will require strong and well enforced intellectual property (IP) laws and regulations to guarantee that the creators, rather than those who steal (yes, thieves) the products of their efforts, are the primary beneficiaries of their sweat.

It is high time the authorities acted to fight counterfeiters and violators of copyright and patent rights. If not, we shall soon be feeling the heat from major trade partners whose companies' copyrights and brand names, Rwanda-based counterfeiters or traders begin infringing.

Copyright infringement is not a victimless crime. And it is as much a crime as any common burglary. It’s time to act to stamp it out.

Mwene Kalinda

***

Good and pertinent points Mr. Ntayombya! It’s such a shame to see renowned artistes like Aime Uwimana, Luc Buntu, Patient Bizimana and others’ CDs openly pirated in Kigali streets. Even the local Kinyarwanda movie industry is suffering from pirated content.

The famous “agasobanuye” are blatant copyright infringement, however harmless and entertaining they are. Use of Facebook, Twitter and McDonald’s logos in bars and restaurants is another copyright infringement case although I hardly think the big brands would bother to sue the little guys – it’s just not worth it.

For the pirated CDs though, I believe it’s ignorance and, anyway, if it’s not due to ignorance, it’s what puts bread on the table that matters.

Measures that can be implemented are, firstly, obviously someone is duplicating the CDs somewhere in Nyamirambo or Quartier Mateus and I believe these are the people to easily target and shut down.

Secondly, creative industry needs to form professional associations which will push for their rights.

Thirdly, local artistes need to widen their products in as many outlets as possible, including using the internet, e.g. iTunes. Currently, only Nakumatt stocks local artistes CDs which really limits the buyer.

And, yes, I believe in supporting local artistes and only buy original CDs as a matter of principle.

Kigali Girl

 

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