Cablegate: Goe Reaffirms Protection of Copyrights

DE RUEHDS #2149/01 2200445
R 070445Z AUG 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) The Ethiopian Government (GoE) destroyed close to half a
million pirated copies of locally produced music CDs, software,
Ethiopian-produced DVD films and foreign-produced pornographic films
on 27 July 2008 at Meskel Square in Addis Ababa in the presence of
senior government officials, artists, producers and residents. Most
of the pirated material was piled up and crushed, but a small
portion of it was burned in a ceremonial bonfire. Minister of
Information Berhan Hailu said that the GoE was making strides to
better protect copyrighted material because of the detrimental
effect pirated goods were having on the economy. Ethiopian
Audiovisual Association (EAA) chairperson Equbai Berhe said the
illegal copies, which were worth millions of dollars, have been
creating socio-economic problems. Ato Esayas Asmelash, the
Copyright Protection Team Leader at the Federal Corruption and
Anti-Ethics Commission (FCAEC), told post's economic officers that a
coordinated effort launched by the government has been taking
various measures to stop illegal piracy of Ethiopian artists'
intellectual property. The government's priority right now is to
create awareness of the problems created by pirated materials and
the public destruction of these materials on 27 July was a welcome
initial push in these efforts. End Summary.


2. (U) Though the Copyright and Neighboring Rights Protection
Proclamation, which protects the rights of copyright owners and
associated beneficiaries, was enacted in June 2004, until recently
the GoE has made no serious effort to enforce these rights. The
GoE's first actions were in mid-July 2008 when police began a
round-up of pirated materials to include in the ceremonial
destruction on 27 July. Ato Esayas, the Copyright Protection Team
Leader at the FCAEC, told post's economic officers that a
coordinated effort launched by the government in tandem with the EAA
has now taken various measures to stop the illegal copying activity.
These efforts include: developing a workable strategy of awareness
creation and follow-up, creating awareness among different
stakeholders (such as the police, courts, and Ministry of Justice),
and establishing a "collective management society." Esayas also
said that in the past, the government's efforts had been
disorganized, but now an Ethiopian Intellectual Property Rights
Council (EIPRC) has been created to implement the government's
strategies. Until now, the Ministry of Trade had licensed DVD
rental stores to operate without consulting the copyright holders of
the materials to be rented. Thus, the rental stores were free to
rent both original and pirated films with the Ministry of Trade's
unknowing concurrence.

3. (U) Ato Esayas confirmed that the recent crack-down on pirated
materials did not include foreign copyrighted material, with the
exception of pornography. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism was
responsible for ensuring that all foreign-produced pornography was
included in the material destroyed on 27 July on indecency, rather
than IPR, grounds. Esayas noted that Ethiopia was not a signatory
to any of the international treaties and agreements dealing with
copyright issues and until the time that they became a signatory,
foreign-produced material would not be included in the government's
crack-down. Esayas did indicate that the Ethiopian government's
plan was eventually to sign these treaties, though it was not
currently a priority of the EIPRC.

4. (U) Organizations present at the destruction ceremony on 27 July
included: Federal Police, EAA, EIPO, EIPRC, Ministry of Culture and
Tourism, Ministry of Information, the Addis Ababa Mayor's Office,
and others. To date, no arrests have been made for violation of
copyright and piracy issues. Esayas indicated that the primary
reason for the lack of arrests is the general lack of awareness.
Most law enforcement officials have not been informed that their
duties include enforcement of copyright issues. The ceremony on 27
July was designed to change that. Additionally, the current
standards for punishment of copyright crimes are being reviewed. At
present, the maximum imprisonment term for violation of copyright
issues is two years in a federal prison. The EIPRC is pushing the
Ministry of Justice to increase this term to five years with the
hopes that the increased time will act as a deterrent to copyright

5. (U) The biggest obstacle the government feels it has in enforcing
copyright protection is awareness. To be successful the government
will need to improve awareness from the lowest beat cop to the
highest ministerial official. From the producer of copyrighted
material's perspective, the major challenge in helping to protect
copyrighted material is the creation of a national copyright symbol.
This symbol needs to be easily identifiable and difficult to
counterfeit so that it can be placed on original materials of all
types and make the identification of pirated materials easier for
law enforcement personnel.

ADDIS ABAB 00002149 002 OF 002


6. (U) The mid-July police raid on pirated electronic media and
their July 27 destruction are fantastic examples of GoE responses to
protect citizens' rights as well as of strong collaboration between
the GoE and a private sector association. Ensuring the protection
of intellectual property rights is necessary for enhancing
investment and economic development in Ethiopia. The government
seems to be on the right track by implementing measures to protect
Ethiopian-produced materials, but will need to recognize
international treaties and agreements which protect foreign-produced
materials before they can be taken seriously by investors in
foreign-produced materials. A concerted effort on the part of
several government entities and stakeholders will be necessary for
the government's current efforts to take hold. Applauding this
positive GoE step presents a good opportunity for USG officials to
broach the broader issue of IPR protection, and specifically the
protection of the intellectual property rights of foreign works,
with senior GoE officials. Post will closely follow this issue for
further developments. End comment.


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