SA’s tech industry rallies to protect IP


World Intellectual Property Day, celebrated worldwide on 26 April, is a day where we are reminded of the greater role ideas and creativity have on the society and economy at large. Fact is, a developing economy like South Africa’s needs to protect innovation and creativity at all cost, and understand the importance of guarding original artists and innovators’ rights to intellectual property protection.

South Africa's technology industry has marked World Intellectual Property Day with a renewed call for action against piracy. (Image source: Shutterstock.com)

Stop at any intersection, or browse any flea market, and chances are you’ll be able to pick up pirated music, movies, arts and games for seemingly a bargain. But buying these products is not only illegal – it’s taking the food out of the mouth of honest businesses, up-and-coming artists and entrepreneurs across the country.

Intellectual property theft and especially piracy is a problem common to all countries around the world.

“As Proud South Africans we cannot allow the industry to continue bleeding while criminals illegally benefit through stealing the work of our artists and creative minds. Pirated goods rob the original creators of their future. This also robs the government of tax revenue and ultimately has a negative impact on South Africa’s economy,” says CEO of Proudly South African, Adv. Leslie Sedibe.

He has urged consumers to support local industries by buying genuine products:  “We cannot allow our artists to die in poverty. Consumers are urged to buy original and genuine items from legal and reputable retailers and shops. It is everyone’s moral and civic duty to adhere to the laws of the land – and to report crime and wrongdoing.”

In South Africa, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) is working with companies like Microsoft SA, Proudly SA, SAFACT, AIRCO, the US Embassy as well as the Universities of Pretoria and Stellenbosch to drive awareness around World IP Day and the damaging effects of IP theft on our cultural and social growth as a country, not to mentioned the effect on our economic growth.

Overall, the trade in pirated goods translates into millions of rands annually for the country in lost revenues, according to latest statistics available from Law Enforcement Agencies, and gathered by the CIPC.

Ms Lotheringen, the Head of Enforcement of IP rights at the CIPC, confirmed that some of the products heavily counterfeited and smuggled across international borders include software, aircraft spares, pharmaceuticals, clothes, bags, cosmetics, music, films, medicines and vehicle parts.

“The exact impact of counterfeiting is hard to quantify, but one thing is certain – this trend has been increasing over recent years. We have an urgent challenge in South Africa to stem this tide because the presence of high-quality fakes in the market makes it difficult for consumers to distinguish between pirated goods and genuine goods,” she says.

Microsoft’s Anti-piracy Lead, Monique Ferreira, says pirated computer software is currently costing legal resellers and the local computer industry millions of rands a month through lost revenue. This is leaving thousands of unsuspecting computer owners without support.

“More and more employees are downloading software on to their computers at work – up to 40 percent in South Africa, according to a recent survey. This is costing many businesses precious time and money to fix problems relating to pirated software – time and money which could have been spent on growing the business, employing staff and adding to the economy,” says Ferreira.

“Every South African can contribute towards creating a bigger demand for home grown genuine products and services to help prevent job losses, stimulate job creation and in a sustainable manner and ultimately fuel South Africa’s economic growth,” she says.

Corne Guldenpfennig, CEO of SAFACT says the youth is our future, so are films and music.  “Films and music are everybody’s link to the past. Take for example the films Lincoln, Stander, Ice Age, Die Wonderwerker and music such as Abba, Beatles, Elvis and Mozart!  Without preserving the work of our creators the youth of the future will not have what we have now.  Piracy is slowing breaking down the authentic entertainment industry and erasing the thrill of watching movies on the big screen or attending a live music performance.  If we don’t respect copyright, the new generation will not have the opportunity to buy any content nor getting it off the internet for free.

She says that during 2012 SAFACT opened 692 criminal cases and seized 886 560 pirated films and 58 615 pirated music CDs.  To date, SAFACT has already opened 131 new criminal cases. ”

Staff Writer