World Book and Copyright Day is marked annually on 23rd April. The date was set by a UNESCO General conference in Paris in 1995. Its aim is to pay a worldwide tribute to books and authors and encourage everyone to discover and revel in the pleasure of reading.
According to the message from Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO on the occasion of World Book and Copyright Day, “When we celebrate books, we celebrate activities – writing , reading, translating, publishing – which help individuals to raise and fulfil themselves; and we celebrate, in a fundamental way, the freedoms that make them possible. Books are at the intersection of some of the most essential human freedoms, primarily freedom of expression and freedom to publish. These are fragile freedoms.” The message goes on to say, “It is our duty then, everywhere in the world, to protect these freedoms and to promote reading and writing in order to fight illiteracy and poverty and to strengthen the foundations of peace, as well as to protect the publishing-related professions and professionals.”
One of the ways we can protect authors and publishers is by buying their work. Many Kenyan authors have spoken about getting requests from close friends for PDF copies of a recently published book. It has become common practice to see illegal electronic versions of popular books being exchanged on the internet. This practice not only hurts the bottom line of publishing houses but also sucks the creative motivation out of authors. Why should they struggle for months trying to fit the right words together to create a literary masterpiece when as soon as it has been published, illegal copies are already available on the internet?
The Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) is trying to do its part to help secure the freedoms of writers and publishers. The Board “registers copyright works of musical, audio visual, literary and artistic nature. The work must be of original authorship. The work should be in tangible format, including digital format”. They urge authors to copyright their work so as to have a strong legal foundation when pursuing violators of their copyright.
Set books in Kenya are at the top of the list in terms of copyright infringement. To combat this all genuine set books approved by the KICD have a security tag on the cover. You scratch the panel to reveal a 16 digit pin and SMS the numbers to 22776 to receive a confirmation on the authenticity of the purchased book. If it is not genuine, buyers are urged to demand for a refund and make a report of copyright infringement to KECOBO.
Kenya loses Ksh 4 billion in revenue annually to book piracy. During this year’s World Book and Copyright Day, protect authors and publishers by buying their genuine work.