Quest for Reference Materials Recipe for Infringement of Copyright Law

Quest for Reference Materials Recipe for Infringement of Copyright Law

University/college students’ Project reports that are prone to plagiarism. It is often said that if you want to hide anything in Kenya, put it in books because nobody bothers to dig out anything from books.

Recent research revealed that Kenyans are average readers with more emphasis paid on newspapers.

The reading culture in Kenya is below per making scholars blame it, as the reason why we have few individuals who have excelled in the field of literature and authorship of books to put the country on the international map as among them, renowned author Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Meja Mwangi, David Maillu, late Wahome Mutahi , Ken Walibora, Francis Imbuga and John Kiriamiti.

However, as the harsh verdict implicates the Kenyan community it is the shortcuts we take in achieving our goals that have killed the spirit of writing books.

And therefore, no one seems to like taking a bit longer in engaging in exercises that are very crucial and important in life such as research. In every learning institution, and in particular institutions of higher learning, the requirement is that before a student can rejoice of having successfully completed their studies, they have to conduct research n their various fields of study. Projects are written and students are subjected to come up with an original document from an extensive study which is a prerequisite in their studies before graduating.

Students and their tutors alike should know that it is not what you get that makes one successful; rather it is what you are continuing to do with what you’ve got that measures your success. Once again, the person who is satisfied with what he has done will never become famous for what he will do if plagiarism is his way of life.

Just like any other business, book writing and publication is under threat from those who like reaping from where they have not sown. It is a pity that even our tutors and lecturers are at the top in propagating this vice-plagiarism.

Visit any University or College around and what you find is really traumatizing. The said lecturers turn to photocopy of preferred pages and sections in particular books in the various disciplines they are engaged in and give them to students to make as many copies as they can afford for their own use.

These ‘gang of thieves’ in the name of researchers are not different from robbers using guns to break into banks. Photocopying someone’s copyrighted material without express permission from the author is in itself criminal. Indeed most research uses patented materials without honoring the authors as required in the law.

This is the practice that is simply killing the industry and disrespecting those who authored books and their tireless efforts of doing researches in every place they could find relevant information for the benefit of the larger population.

The cost incurred in authoring a single book cannot be over-emphasized. The time spent on research, typing and editing, proofreading and designing, the manpower and resources used in publication and marketing and the time the books sit on the shelves on bookshops tell it all.

A study by Strategic Public Relations and Research (SPRR) reveals that authors are denied their royalties through photocopying copyrighted materials and the culprits are students and by extension, lecturers.

Reproduction of Copyrighted materials either on web materials or books in either form without prior permission from the author or publisher is a criminal offence and amounts to stealing.

Photocopying outlets are the leading perpetrators of this vice and should be tamed for there to be sanity in the industry. It is amazing how such businesses thrive in the face of law enforcers and other concerned parties.

According to Mr. Gerald Majany, a lecturer cum city Lawyer, colleges and universities should be regulated on the source of their learning materials as well as research materials.

He says reproduction of such copyrighted materials is punishable under the laws of Kenya and what is needed is setting a precedent in arresting and prosecuting those found in possession of such materials.

The law is clear. You can not use someone’s published work without their permission especially in research,” notes Majany. His sentiments are echoed by the Kenya Copyright Board and Kopiken (a reproduction right organization) which funded the survey by advocating for the laws to be changed so that offenders can be punished.

“There is a need to step up enforcement and implementing capacity of law enforcement agencies as photocopy shop owners are found only to worry of infringing copyright laws in the presence of law enforcers,” observes the study.

Both Prof. Egara Kabaji and Galord Njui are quoted as having said that the survival of traditional books in this modem society of e-mail Twitter and facebook is like a human being infected with a deadly disease that the cure is known but there is no one to administer it to the patient.

To be sincere with ourselves, no meaningful serious research and reading can be done in the cyber cafes due to a horde of reasons.

To this effect, traditional books are there to stay because of their quality hence the need for Kenyans to create awareness of reading books and conducting research from the grassroots by individuals rising to the occasion through buying such books and avoid the temptation of photocopying the materials.

The present Kenyan youth risk being left out of the modern world as they are becoming consumers of hybrid knowledge and the only way they can boost their intellectual power is to divide their time on studies and research books so they can put their findings online in order for other people to read them.

What Kenyans are getting from the net and photocopied materials is book knowledge and research conducted by other scholars of their age around the world and thus should as well ape it and strive to conduct their own researches for others to benefit from it.

And as the industry sinks deeper into this quagmire, Kenyans should choose between being consumers of genuinely acquired reading materials or be agents of plagiarism.

To many, to conduct beneficial research required a click of a button hence killing the reading culture.

Literary material analysts wonder why some best-sellers like the Holy Bible are not pirated yet they are as essential as any other books. It would probably be a costly affair and a big loss to the publishers of such a book considering its volume.

In this modem society, one cannot claim to be a scholar unless they get down to serious work and business of getting real and doing what is right, buying original books and making good use of them.

Nonetheless, during these hard economic times, political change and above all, reading culture evolution, conducting research and publishing materials are the only solutions to Africa’s myriad problems.

It is said that Western universities do not award marks for any work downloaded from the internet because those universities need new findings from Africa and other third world countries. The same should be applied here in Kenya as a developing nation in matters of education.

For this reason, the late Prof. Chris Wanjala is on record having said that those who spend most of their time on copying what others have done and merely paraphrasing it because they want to spend more time on Facebook and other social networks have no agenda hence no market for them.

Other scholars including Prof Henry Indangasi and former KU Vice-Chancellor Prof George Eshiwani will want them to pay for copyright.

The lecturers should reform the examining system to reflect originality and creativity in research. University administration should also punish those lazy lecturers who have a tendency of photocopying materials for teaching and learning.

And even though the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) has been working well with the teachers to examine students, they should come up with modalities that will put to an end the shoddy work presented for examination both by students and their tutors.

There has been coordination with the teachers in setting and marking of the examinations and assessing students but the examining body should also subject these teachers to offer high-level education through original and sincere methodologies and bury the norm that the council understands teachers, lecturers or tutors know what they have taught the students.

Prof. Kabaji says that to tame plagiarism and piracy of copyrighted materials, the government must enforce copyright laws. Through punishing violators of the copyright laws the government will be encouraging its country’s authors into the industry of publishing books.


By Obed Simiyu, Journalist.  Follow on LinkedIn