When it comes to piracy, the ones with the loudest voices are people in the music and television industries. It is common to hear a musician complain about the high levels of piracy and what needs to be done to curb the vice. However, is it any different for individuals who write books? Are they also at risk of piracy?

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A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a WhatsApp message which also had an attachment of a PDF copy of The President’s Keepers by Jacques Pauw. It is the book that was leaked after there were attempts by the security service in South Africa to have the hard copies recalled from the book stores because of Jacob Zuma revelations it has. This past weekend friends sent me a PDF copy of the book 'Fire and Fury- Inside the Trump White House' by Michael Wolff and WhatsApp groups have been flooded with the same copy. It is an  exposé of Donald Trump's first nine months in office. Wolff had deep access to the White House and was able to provide revealing details of the US president. Trump keeps discrediting the book's accounts on Twitter and as result fueled interest in it. Now regardless of what Trump thinks of the book what is the legality of sharing it?


The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) describes copyright as the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. These rights can be both economic and moral rights. Economic rights are those where the creator derives economics benefits from his or her work. On the other hand, moral rights protect the non-economic interests of the author. According to USA copyright laws, writers have copyright of their published work, which lasts during the life of the author and an additional 70 years after their death. In Zambia, the Copyright and Performance Rights Act states that “…copyright in literary, musical or artistic work or compilation shall expire at the end of the period of fifty years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies.”


Books whose copyrights have expired are popularly known as public domain books. Public domain books are the ones whose intellectual property rights have expired, and someone does not need to obtain permission for their use or distribution from the author or publisher. Some famous public domain books include, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason among others. Many of these books are available online as free downloads. 


Fire and Fury was officially released on 5 January, 2018 and using the copyright laws of both Zambia and America is not a public domain book and there is a copyright infringement by sharing the book. Michael Wolff is alive; therefore, the copyright laws in both countries protect him. Fire and Fury being shared on the various platforms prevents him from acquiring financial benefits out of the sale of his book. A benefit he would have gotten if the book was bought from a book store or online.


Do you find anything wrong with sharing the book?


The book can be purchased here >>> https://www.amazon.com/Fire-Fury-Inside-Trump-White/dp/1250158060