The country’s piracy rate has nearly doubled to almost 70 percent over the past two years.
The illegal trade of pirated music is a worldwide problem, costing the legitimate music industry billions of dollars in lost revenues, undermining the development of countries’ economies and nurturing serious crime. It is estimated that two in five sound recordings sold across the world is pirated. According to International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which represents the companies that produce and distribute more than 90% of all sound recordings by Arab artists, piracy has affected the world sales of recorded music, which fell by 7% in value and by 8% in units in 2002. Global sales of pirate recordings are worth US$4.3 billion annually.
Music piracy is a serious problem in many countries of the Middle East, mainly due to poor anti-piracy enforcement. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have high levels of piracy. However, the rate of piracy is highest in Lebanon at nearly 70% – crippling for a market that is an important creative source of Arabic music. The situation in the country has considerably worsened in the past few years, with the piracy rate increasing from 42% in 1999 to 69% today. The legitimate market declined significantly during the same period, decreasing by 46% in the past four years.
By contrast, there has been considerable progress made against the piracy problem in the GCC countries, with the UAE for example, registering the lowest level of domestic piracy at under 10% – on a par with the world’s major markets.
The delegation that met with Prime Minister Hariri at his official residence Koraytem Palace in Beirut comprised: Allen Dixon, IFPI General Counsel & Executive Director; Trevor Pearcy, IFPI Director of Planning & Administration; Willem van Adrichem, IFPI Regional Anti-Piracy Coordinator; Patrick Boulos, Regional Marketing & Development Director, Universal Music Group; Ghassan el Ajou, President & CEO, Music Master; Essam M. Almuawad, General Manager, Distribution Rotana; Ali M. Albaity, Deputy General Manager, Rotana; Carl Abou Malham, M.E.N.A Resident Director Warner Music International; Shuckri Z. Bundakji, President BMG Middle East & North Africa, Pascall Gaillot, Managing Director, EMI Lebanon and Walid Nasser, lawyer IFPI/BSA/MPA.
Allen Dixon said: “Piracy is a huge, criminal, cross-border business that does great damage to the music industry as well as to cultures and economies, affecting investment, growth and jobs. The economic losses due to piracy are enormous and are felt throughout the music value chain. The profits from piracy also fund other, serious, organised crime across the world. The global recording industry is responding to this problem, but it needs help from governments.
“We recognise the Lebanese government has undertaken limited steps to fight piracy – but more is needed at this time. We look forward to offering our expertise and assistance working with the authorities to bring about a dramatic improvement in the music business environment.”
He added: “Lebanon is renowned for its rich culture. Its music and other cultural industries have great potential to thrive, with tremendous economic benefits to the country. However, this potential will only be realised if the copyright system, works in practice and ensures that Lebanese artists and producers are rewarded for their efforts. Most importantly, the laws need to be enforced so there are serious deterrents for the criminals involved.”
The recording industry is specifically calling for greater political commitment from the Lebanese Government; immediate and strong enforcement action and the need to update laws to ensure adequate copyright protection and enforcement in Lebanon was also emphasised.
The industry is of the opinion that the fight against piracy needs to be a high priority for Lebanese enforcement and judicial authorities. In particular an inter-ministerial task force should be established including representatives from the Ministry of Economy & Trade, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice. A specialised IPR police unit to deal with copyright infringements also needs to be set up.
There needs to be proper training for enforcement officials and moves made to establish and train a group of prosecutors specialised in copyright issues. Also, police authorities need to carry out more raids, more frequently, and seize all pirated products discovered. Customs authorities should be able and encouraged to take ‘ex officio’ action (i.e. without a formal complaint) to seize suspect products entering the country.
Copyright law reforms are required to meet World Trade Organization obligations. There should also be regulation of optical disc production, including licensing of plants, use of the industry’s standard identification codes and criminal penalties for violations. Ratification and implementation of major international copyright treaties is also important.
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