A CALL TO THE GOVERNMENT FOR THE IMMEDIATE ENFORCEMENT OF THE PIRACY ACT
To His Excellency the president Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio and the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Madam Memunatu Pratt, with all due respect and good intention, I herein publish this article to call for the immediate enforcement of copyrights in the country, under the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs.
In 2011, the parliament of Sierra Leone under the former president Ernest Bai Koroma assented to the Copyright Act 2011 of Sierra Leone which has a perfectly authentic system of legal control in the field of copyright. Probably, one of the greatest achievements of the past government was the legislation of several laws/policies such as the National Youth Policy Act, the Child Rights Acts, and the copyright Act among several others.
Amidst all these developments, it is heartrending to notice that none of these policies has really effected positive change in the country.
For example, the National Youth Commission Act has woefully failed to coordinate the affairs of youths in Sierra Leone, these youths have gone into disarray, just establishing self-interest groups without the mandate of the said commission, not only duplicating the efforts of others but stealing ideas and misrepresenting the genuine youth activists.
But before delving into the issue and the plea properly, let us first examine what copyright is; Copyright is the absolute right that the creator of music, sound recordings, writer of book, poem, film, play, documentary, creator of arts and craft work has, over the use, duplication, publication of his/her creation for his/her economic and moral benefits. For anything that someone is the first person to make/produce with his hand, out of his brain (which the white man calls intellectual property), he/she should be the one who has the authority to give another person the privilege and permission to copy the work, under agreed terms and conditions (legally) and he/she should be paid for his/her knowledge and talent. ( Peeble Romer, Politico 14/04/16)
In 2012, the world’s leading computer and smart phone technology company – Apple, won its legal battle in the US against Samsung for infringement of patent rights, involving its IPad tablet computing technology. Samsung had to pay Billions of Dollars to Apple in damages.
In the same year, members of parliament of Sierra Leone passed the patents and intellectual property rights bill. According to them, the bill will protect the intellectual property and patents of innovators and inventors.
Now, noble readers, when last did any court in Sierra Leone try a case for patent right/copyright abuse amidst the thousands of photocopied books in town, amidst the thousands of music transfer booths in the country, amidst the hundreds of youths stealing and duplicating ideas in the name of youth organization ?
I mostly pity our brothers and sisters in the music and film industry in Sierra Leone who are working assiduously harder 24 hours round the clock to put ideas into reality, using their personal monies and other resources to sing and act movies in order to put Sierra Leone on the entertainment timeline. The Copyright Administrative Office cares nothing about their struggles which are going in vain because of selfish pirate practices in the country.
Madam Minister of tourism Ma, I have seen your resilience and great moves in promoting the tourism sector of Sierra Leone. I have hard you on the TV talked about tourism, I followed your event in the United Kingdom around November 2018, I have seen the practical strides you’ve undertaken so far in transforming the face of the tourism sector in the country which has even attracted our president so much.
Around 2013/14, one of Nigeria’s brightest actors, Desmond Elliot was in this country to invest in our entertainment/film industry, he left after losing thousands of united states dollars he poured into the movie because of the country’s lack to protect piracy. Vuga, Uche etc who came to develop our film industry are no longer to be found in Sierra Leone. Today, actors would have to trek the streets of Freetown and the country’s major cities to sell their movies themselves because of the lack of trust and professional terms between producers and Cassette Sellers Association.
I wouldn’t talk about the artists because the only time probably they make money is during launching/shows. With the advancement in technology today, artists particularly in Sierra Leone no longer stand the chances to benefit from the sales of their music. They are on every mobile phone, every computer to be distributed for free and many have seized that opportunity to open booths to transfer these music at the detriment/ expense of the artists.
Also, there are cases pending to be reported to the Ministry of Youth Affairs for youths that are engaged in stealing other’s ideas/documents and forwarding them to donor organizations with little or no changes without the prior authorization of the original owner. Informally, there have been complains to the ministry on such offenses, what is hindering them is the unenforced copyright Act. This must be treated with utmost concern because of its prevailing negative effects on not only the Ministry of youth affairs, but the country as a whole. Youth organizations with genuine and good motives are today being frowned at by donor organizations mainly due to a replicate of proposals received on a daily basis which are just the same with only changes in the names of submitting organizations.
Mr. president Sir, we are aware of your commitments in transforming Sierra Leone, in late December last year 2018, I followed the cultural festival event in Bonthe Island which you were a honorable guest to and you reaffirmed your government’s commitments to boost up the tourism sector which in turn will yield greater dividends towards the country’s development. Also, to our most active and passionate first lady of the nation, Madam Fatima Bio, you were in the entertainment industry sometimes ago, you know the challenges both artists and actors face from rehearsals to shooting, the challenges to editing movies/video clips etc. we highly call on you for your support to protect the patent/copyright acts and the law takes strong actions against defaulters.
Madam Minister, All your 2019 strategic plans for the ministry of tourism and cultural affairs are well in place, but Ma, they will only be achieved and sustained when we have a functional and enforceable copyright/patent right. We are losing investors due to the ineffectiveness of our copyright act. Many of us can no longer post certain information on our websites though they are necessary to be posted in order to show the world what we are doing.
Also to the Minister of youth Affairs, Mr. Orman Bangura, we do appreciate your leadership in that ministry and we call upon you to keenly look into the activities undertaken by the many youth emerging organizations in the country. Several cases have been reported about youths who are grossly misusing the title of youth Ambassador, misrepresenting the ministry and youths of this country. Many have reported their ideas or programs being stolen by fellow youths and several other complains with regards youth issues in the country.
Finally to the commissioner of the National Youth Commission, Mr. Ngolo Katta, I believe in your astute leadership charisma since you were leader of Centre for the Coordination of Youth Affairs (CCYA) and I believe you will use those astute leadership models to transform that commission. The several youth-led unregistered organizations must be ban with immediate effect, a comprehensive background check must be done on the purported youth ambassadors and the undeserving so called youth ambassadors must be ban. The commission must put mechanisms in place for youth led organizations to submit to the commission their yearly plans in order to avoid duplication of activities especially with no positive effects on the beneficiaries and a proper scrutiny to avoid piracy. The impersonation is too much; we must end it now if we want to make Sierra Leone a better nation.
Many thanks to you all as I look forward to meeting with you all in thee shortest possible time.
Aloysius Tamba Foryoh.