Cancer eating the Film sector

Sometime back I was having a chat with a friend and she popped up a question. “Have you watched Black Panther?” I said no. She went on, “People had to pay to go watch it in the cinemas yet I got it for only Sh 50 from my local movie shop.”

She was eagerly explaining to me how it’s cheap to watch films with a view that those who pay to watch films are not smart enough like her to illegally purchase them at lower prices. This she did without knowing that it is unlawful and affects production companies and her favorite screen personalities.

Piracy is the “unauthorized duplication of copyrighted content that is then sold at substantially lower prices in the ‘grey market’ ” according to the Economic Times. With technological advancements, it has become common around the world. Stringent laws have been made to curb the vice.

Have you ever watched Expendables 3, a summer 2014 movie? It lost 10 billion shillings after it was stolen and leaked three weeks before its official release. That’s the hurting effect of piracy.

In Kenya, it’s common for one to drop by a movie shop to download a movie, series or a music video into a disk. We are unknowingly promoting piracy. Video piracy, DVD/CD piracy, and cable piracy represent the major types of piracy. Video piracy refers to when a film is reproduced without authorization from the producer who holds the rights to it. Cable piracy is the unauthorized transmission of films through a cable network though this doesn’t take place in Kenya. Music piracy which is the most rampant refers to the replication of music CDs which flood the market after a music product launch.

Pirated films can be found in public service vehicles with in-ride entertainment, markets and movie shops. Many of these films are foreign-produced but they get into the country without classification and examination.

The Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) and Kenya Film and Classification board (KFCB) had banned the importation of unlicensed foreign movies into the country. All foreign films are now expected to bear the KFCB classification labels in a bid to curb privacy.

KECOBO introduced the Anti-Piracy Security Device (APSD), a tamper-proof sticker which is applied on legitimate audio and audio-visual works. It has a unique barcode and the board has a right to seize works that lacks APSD.

But do we really know how we hurt the film industry by investing in our relationship with the movie guy?

Piracy creates an unfair operating environment for Kenyan film producers and actors because consumers opt for cheap foreign films that are illegally imported. This affects the morale of Kenyan film players and stifles talent.

With pirated films flooding the market, locally produced movies and TV series don’t generate sufficient earnings to sustain future productions. Producers and actors cannot earn a living from their works. For example, when a movie is produced and it incurs losses due to its transmission in the ‘grey’ market before its release, the production team from directors to actors miss out on royalties that would have been earnesd from the film’s legal consumption.

Investors are scared to invest in Kenya because piracy levels are high. Locally produced movies have low returns due to the menace.

It is interesting because the major contributors to piracy are Kenyans who are fond of going for cheap films that have been pirated. For a vibrant film scene, the state agencies should put in place strict laws to punish offenders and end the vice that has been detrimental to growth in the film industry.

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