Ethiopia: Copyright verdict ‘shocks’ Entertainment industry

Ethiopian Music CD
The infringement of copyright in Ethiopia has made a new turn.

By Binyam Tamene

The exoneration of Zelalem Fisseha by the Federal Supreme Court is a blow to the country’s entertainment industry, said Hailay Tadesse, President of the Ethiopian Audiovisual Association. The federal court reversed the decision of the Amhara Regional State Supreme Court’s and acquitted Zelalem of copyright infringement and falsification of the seal of a private organisation.

The Amhara Regional State Justice Bureau prosecutor charged Zelalem and his son, Fisseha Zelalem, on October 9, 2009 with infringement of the copyright law, falsification, and making unauthorised use of the seal of Sony Film and Music Production, to bootleg music CDs and VCDs

The association said over eight million birr worth of materials were seized from Zelalem.

He added: “It is shocking news for all of us,” claiming many engaged in the production sector are now considering changing their occupation.

After hearing the decision, members of the audiovisual association have reached an agreement to suspend any type of production for an indefinite period. The association said the suspension would remain in force until copyright protection was guaranteed.

“This is not just a decision initiated by the association, it is a decision made based on the anger and frustration of our members,” said the president.

Over 300 million birr has been invested in producing popular music, spiritual songs, movies and other entertainment. Had it not been for the extensively practiced infringements, the president said the figure could have been counted in the billions.

Referring to the federal court decision, the president said the number of criminals engaged in this business has increased and this decision will give them confidence to steal what is not theirs with confidence.

The infringement of copyright in the country has made a new turn, as the number of technologies used in the entertainment sector has increased, with many engaged extensively in transferring works onto iPods, MP3 players and mobiles.

“It saddens me how the situation is deteriorating time and after time,” said the president.