Friday, 26 March 2010

Swaziland: Un-deterring Fines, Successful Raid

See adjacent text.Swazi Observer has a follow-up regarding the frustration with low fines for copyright infringement in Swaziland.  (Discussed on Afro-IP here.)  Taking an active role in the fight against infringement, artists from the Association of Christian Artists in Swaziland (ACASWA) joined forces with the local police in Manzini, an industrial centre in central Swaziland.  Together, the police and artists raided the streets of Manzini for unauthorized copies of the artists’ works.

The raid seems to have been successful; the police and artists confiscated a large number of infringing goods valuing E100,000 (ZAR 100,000).  The police also made a significant number of arrests, but all those arrested were able to pay the low fines and were released from custody.

These low fines - four emalangeni per copy - are the source of growing frustration over Swaziland’s Copyright Act of 1912.  The Observer comments:

“Gospel artists are utterly outraged by the existence of the Copyright Act of 1912 which stipulates that after conviction, music pirates will be liable to a fine of E4 when found in possession of counterfeit goods.”

Afro-Leo would like to observe that the artists are probably not “outraged by the existence of the Copyright Act of 1912,” but rather outraged that the an act from 1912 is still the current act.  If the 1912 Act did not exist, the country would have no copyright law.  While the absence of copyright would also mean the absence of infringement, it would not place the artists in any better of a position.

Once again, the artists spoke out to urge the Swaziland parliament to enact a new copyright act.  A draft copyright act was in circulation in 2006.  (Mentioned in endnote 5 of this pdf document discussing Botswana’s 2005 copyright draft.)  Afro-Leo has not yet been able to find more information about this draft, its contents, or what happened to it.  Perhaps some Swazi readers can help with more information.

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