Friday, November 17, 2006

Does NTV On DStv Open The Beat To Lawsuits?

We all know that when it comes to music and intellectual property, copyright laws in this country are virtually nonexistent. If these laws were indeed enforced, a lot of our musicians would be making handsome amounts of money…but we all know this is not the case. The problem is of course a government that simply cannot enforce ALL laws in the country. Perhaps because it is unwilling, incapable of organizing itself effectively, does not have the adequate resources or simply does not see the potential of the entertainment industry a potential taxation gold mine. Whatever the reasons, the laxity of the authorities to enforce copyright infringement laws, especially in the music and entertainment business, has been a boon for the illegal piracy trade.

Fortunately, this is not the case in the outside world – a world where governments are run effectively and are genuinely engaged in protecting the rights of their citizens. You see, DStv is Africa’s largest satellite pay-TV network, and beams its broadcast throughout our beautiful continent and into the Middle East and Asia. In fact, the only TV network that broadcasts live rugby and cricket matches in China is DStv!

With this in mind, it brings into question NTV broadcasting its signal on DStv. It means that NTV has exposed its content to an international audience; an audience which, by and large, have systems in their respective countries that diligently enforce copyright laws. It’s not the international programming that is of concern here, we are convinced that an organization with vast resources like the Nation Media Group goes through all the right channels to purchase shows produced outside this country. It’s the local programming that raises our eyebrows. Especially local programming that ‘borrows’ international material.

Now that the eyes of the world are on NTV, it would be prudent for the station to keenly understand and adhere to international copyright laws. And it’s not the news clips from CNN, SKY News or BBC we’re worried about (who cares about the news anyway?), it’s more important programming like the international music videos on the award-wining show ‘The Beat.’ Being a favourite with Kenya’s teeniez, it would be safe to deduce that The Beat is one of NTV’s most-viewed shows (for those still struggling to catch up with this train of thought, please note that the youth consist of over 60% of our total population). Now what has the station done to ensure that international record companies, or their authorized music video distributors, don’t start jetting into the country to demand for their dues?

We would like to assume that a major broadcast industry player like NTV has already seen this potential hurdle and put measures into place (paid the necessary royalties or fees required to air international music videos) to eschew lawsuits. But if they have not, then they’d better start calling up their 10,000 bob-an-hour lawyers to start covering their asses, coz the potential of the proverbial excrement hitting the spinning blades that produce cool breezes is quite imminent.