The global theme for the year’s event was: “Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined”, to explore the future of the digital age including how to create, access and finance it.

The event was commemorated locally with a specific focus on the creative industries and how to maximise the benefits of the digital environment.

The Ghana Copyright Office in collaboration with the Microsoft Ghana organised a discussion with stakeholders in Accra, to observe the annual event, which falls on April 26, and instituted by the United Nations because it coincides with the date on which the Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization entered into force in 1970.

Mr Derek Appiah, the Country Manager of Microsoft Ghana, in an address described intellectual property as the legal concept which refers to creations of the mind for which exclusive rights were recognized.

He said under the intellectual property law, owners were granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works, citing some common types of intellectual property rights as copyright, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights, trade dress, and in some jurisdictions trade secrets.

Mr Appiah said in as much as the digital environment presents industries with opportunities and innovative ways of nourishing and enriching human life, it also makes it possible for others to infringe the rights of the very people who nourish the lives with these cultural materials such as music, movies, books, computer software, drawings and images.

He called on individuals, businesses and organisations to desist from patronising cheap pirated software for both their Personal Computers (PC) and for their mobile devices, as these poses serious ethical and security concerns.

He urged them to buy genuine software from honest and accredited dealers, as these were protected against viruses, spyware, malware and other risks, unlike other unprotected ones on the internet, and lacks the Certificate of Authenticity Label or Microsoft Genuine Label.

Mr Appiah said in addition to the ethical concerns around pirating movies, music and software, there are serious risks that comes with the use of counterfeit products, as users often do not realise that such software could open them up to risks such as data loss, identity theft, viruses or damage to their devices.

“In many ways, bringing pirated software into the house is like inviting a criminal in“, he said.

The International Data Corporation has documented a link between pirated software and cybercrimes, saying malware deliberately embedded into pirated software by cybercriminal syndicates were used as vectors to launch attacks.

Cyber criminals, he said, use malware to steal people’s passwords, imitate their banking sites and allow hackers free access to their operating systems, and citizens in Africa, have an even higher chance of falling victim to a cyber-attack, with the continent accounting for 10 per cent of global cyber crime incidents.

Ms Yaa Attafua, Acting Copyright Administrator at the Ghana Copyright Office, called for intensified public education on the intellectual property legislation, to protect works of creators both traditionally and in the digital environment, saying the Ghana Copyright Act of 2005 (Act 690), contains adequate provisions to deal with all forms of copyright infringements.

She said when people invest time and considerable resources into nurturing an idea or product, only to have their work stolen, it breaks down the creation, research and development cycle, resulting in less investment into new inventions or cultural works.

Ms Attafua said in Africa, the effects were practically damaging to emerging economies, to small businesses and to individuals, because intellectual property protection has a direct link with economic growth, job creation and the development of knowledge-based industries.

By Christabel Addo and Alimatu Quaye, GNA

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