Blantyre-based High Court judge Dingiswayo Madise has challenged the police and magistrates to take a leading role in enforcing the new Copyright Act, stating that the two offices are a missing link in curbing piracy.
The judge said this on Tuesday during a sensitisation meeting of the 2016 Copyright Act for police prosecutors, investigators and magistrates, organised by the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) in Mzuzu.
As one of the speakers during the meeting, Madise said the two institutions should not wait for Cosoma to remind them of their core duties.
“It is unfortunate to wait for Cosoma to remind us that people are violating the law out there. The law says copying someone’s work is an offence. And every police officer should enforce the law.
“If piracy is a crime, a police officer doesn’t need to wait for Cosoma to tell them so. They just have to arrest the culprit and take them to court. If we wait for Cosoma to tell us what to do, then we are failing in our job,” he said.
The new Copyright Act, which replaces the outdated Copyright Act of 1989, outlaws any act to reproduce, fix, duplicate, extract, imitate or distribute any work without the consent of the author.
The Act says any person who infringes any copyright commits an offence and shall upon conviction, be liable to a fine of K5 million and to two years imprisonment. In the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine of K25 000 for each day during which the offence continues.
The new Act, among other provisions, also outlaws infringement by parallel imports of folklore; or translations, adaptations or arrangements of expressions of Malawian folklore, stating that upon conviction, an individual is liable to a fine of K10 million and to imprisonment fand four years in the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine of K50 000 for each day during which the offence continues.
Madise said the Act provides maximum sentences or fines to be imposed by the courts, meaning that sentences given to offenders will depend on magnitude of the violation or infringement.
“The fines in my view, are good and the courts are called upon to impose these fines so that people should stop violating the law. We don’t need to shy away,” he said.
Cosoma executive director Dora Makwinja said piracy is still a major challenge in the country despite the enactment of the new law.
Malawi Police Service (MPS) national spokesperson James Kadadzera asked for a questionnaire, but was yet to respond as we went to press.