July 3, 2014

Ugandan pirates on the loose: 80,000 illegal books seized


Pirate online shoppingEighty thousand illegal copies of books, worth about Shs1.8b or $750,000 U.S., have been seized in Uganda. This is an effort to take unlicensed copies from bookshops and printers, part of the country’s enforcement of copyright and crackdown on piracy.

Any article on piracy is more amusing if you imagine pirates with actual ships, swords, and eye patches rather than boring old copy machines. So imagine this rights organization storming a ship and seizing these books in, I don’t know, giant brown sacks that they must sling over their shoulders as they limp, peg-legged, off the ship.

The Uganda Reproduction Rights Organization was licensed by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau to enforce copyright, and to make those licensing the works pay royalties to authors and publishers, according to Jeff Andrew Lule at New Vision, the leading daily paper in Uganda. We can assume they were provided with swords and lemons, to prevent scurvy.

Charles Batambuze, executive director of the Uganda Reproduction Rights Organization, told the Daily Monitor that publishers had lost up to Shs10b, or about $4 million U.S., since October 2013. Arrrgghhh, he might have added. These wild pirates aren’t paying any taxes.

He said that holograms or seals would be introduced in September to reduce book piracy. Most bookshops sell fake books, Batambuze said, and many of the raids have taken place in Kampala and Mbarara. (Uganda’s not near the sea, but it is near Lake Victoria. These must be lake pirates.) The seals will make it obvious to consumers which books are real.

“Inspectors will have readers to verify the validity of the seals. We are also going to engage and license universities on photocopying our work annually,” Batambuze said. That means once all legally printed books are stickered with holograms, these bright young pirates must pass through Tanzania or Kenya and take to the sea.


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.