Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Copyright in Ethiopia…the pauper or the king?

(Please note that the author does not condone or support copyright infringement in any form.)
One of the hottest issues around Addis Ababa is the problem of solving the rampant copyright infringements that can be seen all over the city. Hawkers walk around the city in broad daylight selling CD, VCD and DVD copies of music and movies (both local and foreign.)
Prices range from 5 ETB for a VCD, 4 or less ETB if buying more, to 25 ETB for the latest movie that was released a week ago on DVD. Meanwhile, the same in original would cost around 25 ETB for the former and 50 ETB for the latter. The mean difference here is 22 ETB. It is this mean difference that is being fought for.
The four main actors in this drama are: the artist(s), the authorized dealers, the illegal distributors, the illegal retailers and finally the purchaser/consumer. Of these the one that makes the most profit in these dealings is the illegal distributor. While the artist loses 25 ETB on every illegal CD sold, the illegal distributor can buy one original work and duplicate it on hundreds, if not thousands, of CDs. He just can’t lose.
Now when it comes to the consumer, there are two options that are available: go legal or otherwise. And from what can be seen in actuality most go for the illegal works. Let’s look at some mistakes that are being done by all sides:
·         PRICE: this is the most obvious one. The consumer saves 22 ETB. And that is one reason too many for most consumers, for the simple fact that they cannot afford otherwise. Whereas the artists do not want to budge on the price saying they too can not afford it. The Ethiopian mentality on doing business is ‘going for the highest price possible.’ Every merchant, including the Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation (ETC) have forgotten that or lazily ignore that in the long run and with customer retention and satisfaction:

is less profitable than

They do not want to put any effort into sales, advertising and marketing. They just do not want to put an effort into covering a higher consumer base and providing their services at an optimal price. The same applies to the artists, they do not want to hear of a price knock off, but expect the consumer to bear the brunt. When asked why not, an answer was given that maybe if the consumer stopped buying the illegal works, they would then consider reducing their prices. Yeah, right!

·         AVAILABILTY: walking in any major city in the world you will find salesmen and women trying to sell you products and services ranging from cosmetics, to edibles, to mobile phone services. In Addis Ababa,   while there are some products and services being touted, there are no sales persons selling the legal works of the artists. Au contraire, the illegal ones are everywhere! Why would a consumer even bother going all the way to a legal distributor when he can get it right where he is? If they don’t bother, why should the consumer?

·         Quality: the main argument that the artists and publishers have, when defending their high prices, is that they provide quality products.  There is no question that one must pay a higher price for a superior product. But let’s stop for a minute and ask how many times a consumer is going to watch a movie or drama. And then again let’s ask how badly the quality of a movie or drama would deteriorate when it has been being copied from an original medium. Unless the artist is of a high caliber or a popular veteran in his field, most people will stop listening to a CD in a matter of days, or at the most a couple of weeks. A movie or drama will be seen no more than a handful of times. The quality would not even be taken into factor when the price is considered.

The only option that can solve this issue is to think of the consumer first and then the artist. Not the other way round. The principle of making the customer happy has taken a back seat in Ethiopia. The norm is wresting the money out of the helpless customer by making sure there is no other option available to them.
Maybe it’s time that service providers, of which artists are a part of, understood that the customer really is king and that an unsatisfied king will never be generous.


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