Zimbabwe: Innovate or starve, Piracy Forces Artists to the High Streets


A wave of piracy in Zimbabwe, buoyed by the economic collapse in the country, has seen popular musicians resorting to selling their works on the streets.

Estimates as to the exact scale of piracy in Zimbabwe are unclear but it is undoubtedly depriving content creators of substantial revenue. According to Business Software Alliance, Zimbabwe’s rates of piracy are at least 10% higher than the average in other African countries.

The Zimbabwe Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act gives protection to the creators of a variety of works including literary and musical works, artistic works, sound recordings and broadcasts. Under the act owners of copyright are given the exclusive right to reproduce, publish, import and export their works. Any person who performs any of these acts without the permission of the copyright holder is guilty of an offence and is liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years. However, few rights holders have the time or resources to prosecute offenders. Piracy, therefore, continues unabated.

In response to the growth of piracy in Zimbabwe, local artists have begun selling their content directly to consumers. Make-shift sales stores have reportedly become common place on street corners and in the CBD of the capital. Of course, direct consumer marketing is nothing new, what makes this kind of marketing poignant is the necessity and desperation that it is borne out of. The economic malaise provides those who make a living from the arts with the startling ultimatum: innovate or starve. Happily, some artists report drastically improved sales as a result of this new approach. If the maxim that “necessity is the mother of invention” holds true, it will not be long before similar forms of innovation and creativity become part of the business landscape across the nation.

For more information, please contact Sipho Mudau.

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