The Lilongwe Senior Resident Magistrate’s Court has spared two people found guilty of pirating creative works, prompting the Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM) to describe the judgement as lenient and not a deterrent.
In sentencing, the convicts—Bentry Mwaungulu and Isaac Donda— senior resident magistrate Montfort Misunje yesterday said it was a practice in the courts that where there are two penalties imposed; one for a fine and another for a jail sentence, the court imposes a fine.
He said: “For that reason, I will impose a fine on the two convicts and a sentence of imprisonment in default.”
Misunje fined the first accused, Mwaungulu, K1.6 million or in default 12 months imprisonment on the first count of an infringement of copyrighted material (music) contrary to Section 113 (4) of the Copyright Act of 2016. The convict was also fined another K1.6 million or in default serve 12 months imprisonment for the second count of being found in possession of machines for reproducing copyrighted material.
But Donda, who was answering one count of infringement of copyrighted material, was fined K100 000 or 12 months imprisonment in default.
In a case that put to test the Copyright Act of 2016, the magistrate also ordered that the fines should be paid to the Malawi Government and the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma).
He said: “K2 million should be remitted to Cosoma as compensation for all artists whose works were infringed and K900 000 should go to the Malawi Government…”
On the forfeiture application by the State, Misunje agreed with the submission to have all equipment impounded from Mwaungulu—who employed Donda to be running his business—much to the delight of the musicians present in the courtroom.
“The 400 copies, 1 000 unlabelled CDs already in the custody of the court, must be destroyed and that should be done in the presence of Cosoma assistant licensing officer, Thomas Chirambo [complainant]. The four printers, photocopier, bottles of ink, a laptop and a monitor, be remitted to the chief resident magistrate’s centre,” he said.
In his reaction, Chirambo hailed the ruling, saying it has considered the plight of musicians in Malawi.
He said: “I am happy as this is the first time we are getting a reasonable sentence. Of course, the loss is big but this is the first case tried under the new Act. We are looking forward to getting more of such sentences.”
But MUM president the Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango said the sentence is lenient.
He said: “We are not very happy as the maximum fine is K10 million and the convict has gotten about K3.4 million. All in all, it’s a good start being the first case under the new Copyright Act. We take it with hope that in future, punishments will be stiffer.”
Mwaungulu and Donda were arrested on October 14 in Falls, Lilongwe, where Mwaungulu admitted making K20 000 a day and K50 000 weekly from the sale of reproduced music CDs, for local and international artists, respectively. This translates to about K800 000 monthly.
With an estimated value of over K30 million, according to Cosoma, the two were found with master copies of CDs of musicians such as Skeffa Chimoto, Lucius Banda, Black Missionaries, Thoko Katimba and Ndirande Anglican Voices.