Entertainment Thu, 5 Oct 2006

Copyright office on war path

The Copyright office has seized hundreds of pirated works of local and foreign musicians and actors in a major exercise to clamp down on the activities of pirates in Accra.

In the process, 22 people who were suspected to be owners of some of the pirated works were arrested and placed in custody at the Nima Police Station. They are to be put before court within 48 hours.

The exercise, which was led by the Copyright Administrator, Bernard Bosomprah, and the President of the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), Alhaji Sidiku Buari, took the team, which also included heavily armed police officers, to the UTC area, the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Kaneshie and some of the streets of Accra.

The pirated works were on video tapes, compact discs (CDs) and cassettes. The operation started in different parts of the capital at about 10.30 a.m. and took the owners of the pirated products by surprise.

Stunned by the exercise, some of the owners attempted to stop the operation teams from clearing their shelves but they were restrained by the police officers who accompanied the teams.

All the six vans which were used in the operation were filled with boxes of the pirated products, including pornographic films acted in Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire.

According to some of the suspects, they bought their ware from people who claimed to be selling genuine products certified for sale by the Copyright Office.

They said they could not differentiate the pirated works from the original ones and asked the Copyright Office to educate them on the differences.

As usual, some of the culprits who managed to escape arrest threatened to go into robbery because they had been denied their livelihood.

Screaming from a distance, they said such operations were unacceptable and noted that it was the duty of the musicians and artistes who felt cheated to go after them and not the Copyright Administrator.

But Mr Bosomprah would not budge and instead told them, "You know the right things but you only refuse to do them."

He said although the exercise was expensive, the Copyright Office had resolved to sustain it as long as possible. Mr Bosomprah said a similar exercise was conducted in Kumasi in the Ashanti region a couple of weeks ago, during which thousands of pirated works were seized.

"We will continue to take them by surprise and those who we are able to arrest will be put before court," he warned.

Mr Bosomprah said the state was not only being denied billions of cedis in tax revenue but producers and musicians, as well as movie artistes, were also being denied their source of livelihood.

He said most of the pirated works were brought into the country from countries such as Nigeria, Mali and Burkina Faso and noted that should the exercise be sustained, there would be a major reduction in the vices.

Alhaji Buari, on his part, said many musicians were getting out of job because "they have sleepless nights to compose music or act, only for some unscrupulous persons to make money at their expense".

He described the practice as unacceptable and unfortunate and asked the police to lend support to clamp down on the culprits.

Mr Harry Laud, a film actor and producer, who was present at the Copyright Office after the exercise, said, "These guys are killing us."

He commended the Copyright Administrator and MUSIGA for the effort they put in and asked for its sustenance.

Source: Daily Graphic