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The anti-piracy taskforce convened by the Zimbabwe International Book Fair has engaged the Primary and Secondary Education Ministry in a bid to address the problem of use of pirated books in schools.

Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association chairperson Blazio Tafireyi, who heads the taskforce, said investigations established as high as 64 percent pirated materials at some schools.

“Our investigations show that schools are the major consumer of the pirated books at the present moment,” Tafireyi said.

“Some schools have registered as high as 64 percent pirated materials at their schools. These are, of course, purchased using public funds,” he said.

“We have opened discussions with the ministry (of Primary and Secondary Education). However, these discussions need to shift into a more serious gear and must result in the reversal of this serious breach by the school authorities,” he said.

Tafireyi called on booksellers and authors’ associations to join publishers at the table to ensure that their point is heard clearly.

He also lamented that penalties imposed on copyright offenders are not deterrent enough to keep them from resurfacing on the streets.

He also requested that the anti-piracy focus group be tasked to look into the regional situation to establish why piracy was not as rampant in Namibia, South Africa and Botswana.

Earlier, in his opening remarks at the beginning of the ZIBF Indaba, Primary and Education Minister Lazarus Dokora urged stakeholders to contribute to the development of a book policy.

“Writing is a business. To this end, the question of copyright becomes pivotal,” Dokora said.

“How do we protect ourselves against piracy? I urge you to make your voices heard in the process of developing a national book policy,” he said.

Sibongile Jele, a lecturer with the National University of Science and Technology Publishing Department, said the fight against piracy was being lost in the failure to make books affordable and accessible.

She said the fact that the taskforce had managed to facilitate 15 arrests out of hundreds of cases demonstrated a basic flaw in its current approach.

Jele argued that publishers have priced themselves out of business, thereby facilitating piracy, only to battle it superficially.

Some parents said they had resorted to buying prescribed textbooks on the streets after failing to get them from bookshops.

Tafireyi insisted that inaccessibility of books did not licence parents to buy from wrong avenues as that amounted to complicity with pirates at the expense of publishers.

Freedom fighter and writer Ambassador Agrippa Mutambara (Cde Dragon.

Patiripakashata) said the legal dragnet must close in on both the big fish and the small fish.

He said he found it necessary, as a newcomer to the book sector, that measures be in place to protect legit players.

An eminent author told Herald Entertainment on the sidelines of the Indaba that writers were being used as human shields in the fight against piracy since publishers were not remitting royalties to the creators.

National Arts Council of Zimbabwe director Elvas Mari said stakeholders in the book sector needed to be adequately informed of their rights.

“Practitioners in the creative industries need to be capacitated in such areas as intellectual property rights, patents and copyrights, and related industry matters particularly in an environment where piracy has reached unprecedented levels,” Mari said.

“The handbook may need to be translated into other Zimbabwean languages to enhance accessibility,” he said.

The ZIBF convened the All Stakeholders Anti-Piracy Workshop in May 2013.

The workshop facilitated the formation of the taskforce whose tenure has since expired but it has maintained anti-piracy raids and awareness campaigns.

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