Yemeni authors discouraged by counterfeiting.
When a printing house in Yemen counterfeited Ahmed Al-Shuaibi's first book in 2012, the professor of Islamic studies at Sana'a University decided not to publish any of the other books he had been writing.
"I was shocked when I saw my book counterfeit. I had another book, which was about ready, but I refrained from publishing it. I feared it would be stolen," said Al-Shuaibi.
Though it came as a real shock, Al-Shuaibi said he was lucky that he knew the printing house that copied his book and began selling it illegally. He refused to disclose the name of the printing institution, however, stating he does not want the house to be libeled.
"When I learned of the printing house that illegally copied my book, I reached a settlement that I would be compensated," Al-Shuaibi said. He declined to reveal the amount agreed upon, complaining, however, that he still has not received the sum he was promised.
According to Al-Shuaibi, he is only one of many Yemeni authors who have refrained from publishing their works in response to the booming business of counterfeiting books.
As is often the case, Yemen's thriving informal economy is directly linked to poverty and the lacking enforcement of laws. According to Ahmed Al-Hazmi, the manager of Khalid Bin Al-Waleed, a publishing house and bookstore in Sana'a, there is no practical penalty for those who have been involved in counterfeiting books. This lack of strict punishment negatively affects the publishing houses as well as authors and their readership, he says.
Khalid Bin Al-Waleed publishing house and book store is one of Yemen's printing and book selling institutions whose publications have been exposed to counterfeiting. Al-Hazmi said that illegal copies of three of the books the house has the rights for--including Al-Shuaibi's book--were found in local bookstores.
Most counterfeit books are printed in secret locations and are then distributed to bookshops and markets around the city, even appearing on newsstands. These books contain the exact same content, including the author's name and book title, but are printed on cheaper paper. Books on religion, self-teaching, and university textbooks are the most commonly counterfeited books, says Al-Hazmi.
Yemeni law criminalizes copyright infringement with a penalty of six months in prison and a fine of YR10,000 ($47) to be paid to the publishing house that owns the rights to the book.
Even if the fine is enforced, however, authors often end up not being compensated; when copyright infringement occurs, the publishing house is responsible for following up with legal action and getting compensation, whereas the author must then deal with the publishing house directly.
"The publishing house is not able to compensate the author if illegal copies of his book are found given that the readership rejects to purchase the original version, saying that it is too expensive," said Al-Hazmi.
Given that copies of books are sold at a lower price, they are in much higher demand.
Once, Khalid Bin Al-Waleed publishing house and bookstore had to return 800 out of 1,000 copies of Sheikh Ayid Al-Qarni's book, the Lucid Explanation, because illegal copies of the book were being sold in Yemeni markets.
The counterfeit version was almost a third of the original price: YR5,500 ($26) for the original as opposed to around 2,000 ($9) for the copy, according to Al-Hazmi.
Najat Bahakim, the general manager of Sana'a's Culture Office, explains that counterfeiting books is a violation of intellectual property rights, arguing that authors must document their works and should notify the office in case they discover their books are being illegally copied.
"The Culture Office in the capital city obligated printing houses that counterfeited some books to financially compensate the authors. This came after the authors notified the Culture Office," Bahakim said.
The amount of compensation is largely based on the amount the publishing house claims to have lost in sales.
In Bahakim's view, there must be campaigns to raise awareness about the counterfeiting of books, boycotting them and the printing houses involved. The printing houses, she argues, do not care about copyrights, let alone quality printing, but are exclusively concerned about financial profits.
Abdulghani Al-Makrami, a researcher and poet, also thinks that the sole purpose of counterfeiting books is the pursuit of money, calling those involved thieves.
"Authors lose financial profits when their books are distorted and published," he says, complaining that "authors work hard and stay up writing and revising their works for months or perhaps years."
To protect both authors and publishing houses from counterfeiting, Al-Makrami believes a new law needs to be issued which protects copyrights and severely punishes those who illegally copy and distribute books.
So far, Yemen does not have any specialized court to resolve issues related to copyright infringement and intellectual property theft. Although the Culture Office works to tackle these issues, its rulings usually obligate those who illegally print counterfeit books to compensate the publishing houses whereas the authors often go without compensation.
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