“Shoot the Pirate” Copyright Campaign Descends Into Real Violence

While observers criticize Western companies for their 'aggressive' anti-piracy campaigns, elements of the creative industries in South Africa are taking things to a whole new level. With their "Shoot the Pirate" campaign, music and TV industry players have taken to the streets with threats to "fight violence with violence." Hacks into Sony computers to obtain content and warnings of a blood bath only add to the bizarre mix.

According to figures from the Recording Industry of South Africa (RISA), artists and the recording industry lose millions to music piracy every year, a claim echoed by the RIAA and every other RI-XX group in their respective homes worldwide.

Last month a man in South Africa was arrested and discovered to be in possession of logins and passwords which he used to download products directly from Sony Music Entertainment’s computer systems. But it’s when items like these are burned to disc and sent out onto the streets that the real action begins.

The Creative Workers Union of South Africa, a group of music and TV company representatives, warned on Sunday that their piracy fight is really getting out of hand. Perhaps not such a surprising claim when one learns that their current nationwide anti-piracy campaign – and this isn’t some sort of a joke – is called ‘Shoot the Pirate‘.

Creative Workers Union of South Africa president Mabutho “Kid” Sithole said that people involved in the campaign had already received death threats with one label owner being forced to hire bodyguards. Sithole says that artists are so angry the government must quickly intervene to prevent another “Soweto Uprising“, a reference to a series of protests in 1976 that brought 20,000 students onto the streets and resulted in 176 deaths.

While Sithole’s projections hopefully prove to be an over-dramatization, claims that the police aren’t helping led several artists supporting “Shoot the Pirate” to take to the streets last week to confront the pirate vendors. It didn’t go well.

A brawl ensued which at its height involved artists, vendors and police, who reportedly beat up the artists’ supporters. The protesters then moved on and had another brawl with more pirates at another location.

Gospel artist Lusanda Mcinga was arrested along her son who reportedly had to have 10 stitches in his head, an injury sustained after he allegedly attacked a pirate. Mother and son appeared in court on Monday.

David du Plessis, operations director at the Recording Industry of South Africa, said there’s not much they can do about the problem.

“As long as there is a market for it, there will be piracy,” he said.

But despite the mess and the difference in the physical piracy world described above and the one being fought on the Internet in the West, the same old propaganda and claims of lost sales still exist.

Only last week the manager of rising star “Zahara” said that piracy was “destroying our game” and despite hard work “at the end of the day we do not get anything.”

Zahara is on TS Records, a label run by ‘TK’ – the man who had to hire bodyguards due to his support of the Shoot the Pirate campaign.

“The people have spoken! It has never happened before that a newcomer sells 100,000 units within a few days,” he said in September commenting on Zahara’s “unthinkable” success.

On or offline, the problem is the same. Piracy will never be stopped or, it seems, the sales of good music in spite of it.

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