Liberia Declares War against Intellectual Property Theft

Monrovia – The government of Liberia through the Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO) and its secretariat, the Copyright Society of Liberia (COSOL) has begun an inspection and enforcement exercise of businesses trading in audio and audio-visual contents to remove pirated copyright materials from the stream of Liberia commerce.

With an estimated rate of around 80 percent, piracy is costing the government of Liberia to lost approximately US$2 million dollars each year — an amount that would lead to massive economic growth in the struggling entertainment industry.

As a result of such losses, the government in partnership with the National Collective Societies is now applying all efforts to crack down on illegal content distributions.

According to a release from COSOL, the ongoing exercise which began on Feb. 17, 2021, is geared towards ensuring that businesses trading in-copyright materials are in complying with policies and laws in regards to artistic works, particularly the country’s 2016 Intellectual Property Law that forbids all forms of piracy including 10-in-one disc.

It also focuses on enforcing the hologram stamps law, as well as, mandates that prohibit contents distributors from stockpiling their stores and warehouses with more than 40% of foreign contents and 60% of Liberians own.

 “Pirate copies of artistic workers threaten artists and authors’ livelihoods by robbing them of their due percentage of profits and royalties,” said Clifford B. Robinson, LIPO Deputy Director-General for Copyright. “By working in partnership with the National Collective Societies of Liberia, the government is driving anti-piracy efforts through intelligence gatherings, and educations to combat the illegal trade of piracy from further flourishing, while protecting the creative industries.”

The trade, according to Hon. Robertson has a far-reaching negative economic impact on the creative industries, as a result, reducing the flow of rich and entertaining artistic content.

 “The dramatic decline in revenues for content creators is the direct result of piracy – and the government is not taking this threat likely. Piracy put innovation, creativity, and investment at risk much to the detriment of the content creators,” Mr. Robertson said.

Mr. Robertson further said that the government is reframing its anti-piracy strategy and stepping up efforts to protect the long-term economic interests of the country’s talents and copyright holders to create an enabling environment for their creativity to strive.

Under the new strategy, Hon. Robertson noted that inspection teams inspect not only stores but also warehouses, where most of these goods are kept in huge stockpiles.

He noted that government focus is now shaped on combating and suppressing the trade-in pirated goods by increasing inspection markets, and sales points; and ​enforcing the country’s Intellectual Property law–at the same time, building respect for IP rights through a public awareness campaign.

“Pirated goods will be destroyed and the penalties for trading in forged commodities will be implemented according to the 2016 Liberia Intellectual Property Acts,” Hon. Robertson added.

Meanwhile, COSOL Executive Director Prince E. Decker has disclosed that the anti-piracy exercise begins with the completion of new administrative Policies and Regulations governing the inspections and enforcement in complying with internationally accepted standards. 

As part of the new process, Mr. Decker said the training was conducted for forty plus volunteers nominated by the leadership of the various creative unions to serve on the copyright taskforce.

“In view thereof, the Administration of LIPO, as a matter of policy, has committed to invest more in awareness and sensitization programs and activities to bring the public on board in the fight against piracy,” he said. “We have a duty under the 2016 Intellectual Property Laws and the BERNE Convention to protect the creative content of all creators, be it Liberian work or foreign work. In upholding that duty, this Administration has promulgated administrative policies in support of the aforementioned legal texts declaring as illegal acts and contents of creative works that fall within or below the following standards:

According to him, the ongoing exercise is the first, second, or third activities undertaken by LIPO and COSOL to discourage the rise of piracy and infringement on Copyright Materials.

“This institution is on record of engaging in activities and acts to promote anti-piracy; activities and programs to discourage the growth of markets for pirated products and promote the use of hologram stamps as a means of identifying illegal Copyright Materials on blank tapes from the legal ones.  

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