The significance of copyright-related issues has become more apparent with the growing role of knowledge as the driver of productivity and economic growth. A 2014 report on the contribution of copyrights to the Ethiopian economy shows that this sector contributes about 4.73% of the annual GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the East African nation.
The objective of the study by the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) was to assess the impact of copyright industries on the Ethiopian economy by quantifying the contribution of these industries in terms of their value added to the country’s GDP, as well as their contribution to employment and revenue generated from foreign trade.
While noting that the substantial role of copyright in national economies in terms of the production, distribution and consumption of copyrighted materials is usually overlooked, the report states that copyright industries in the country contribute more than sectors such as mining and quarrying, hotels and restaurants, financial intermediation, education and health, and social work sectors. The Ethiopian copyright industries also performed better in terms of employment generation.
Ethiopia is home to more than 80 ethnic groups, each with its own language, culture, customs, traditions, and lifestyles. There are rich traditions of art, music, dance, literature, and other forms of creativity. The country thus has great potential to diversify its economy through the use of its cultural heritage and pool of creative talent as a feasible development tool. Using creativity as a strategic asset for economic development in Ethiopia calls for defining effective intervention strategies which in turn requires understanding and responding to the factors shaping the development of the creative industries.
While the report could not estimate the exact contribution of the Ethiopia’s music sector to the overall economy, it notes that music instrument exports contributed 0.28% to the economy in 2012. That same year the value added of the copyright industries in Ethiopia was 23 billion Birr ($ 1.1billion). As a percentage of GDP at constant prices, this amounted to 4.73%.
The copyright industries also provided jobs to 240 287 people, which is 4.2% of the urban population employed by the different economic sectors. With a 0.65% share in exports and a 10.87% share in imports, the copyright industries played an important role in Ethiopia’s external trade. The total exports by the copyright industries amounted to $22million.
In the interdependent copyright industries, electronic equipment (TV sets, radios, VCRs, CD players, DVD players, etc) took the leading place with 57.5%. Blank recording material (17.7%), paper (15.7%), computers and equipment (7.7%), photographic and cinematographic instruments (0.98%), and musical instruments (0.28%) follow in the order of their contributions to the sector. The lowest contribution in the sector came from photocopiers, which accounted for only 0.13%. The group of interdependent industries together contributed 1.39% of the GDP. The wholesale and retail trade constitutes a significant share of the interdependent copyright industries.
The report states that the past decade, Ethiopia has seen growing interest in better understanding the size and economic contribution of those industries that rely on protections afforded by copyright law. In 2003, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) issued a methodological guide with a view to revealing the economic contribution of copyright industries. This methodology outlines four groups of copyright industries, identified on the basis of their level of dependence on copyright material. It establishes a set of major indicators - contribution to gross domestic product (GDP), employment, and foreign trade - and lays out research standards and approaches. The guidelines have served as the basis for national studies on the economic contribution of copyright industries in many developed and developing countries.
Furthermore, the cultural policy of Ethiopia recognizes the need for the protection and promotion of the copyright industries. A focus on copyright protection is also one of the strategic directions of the countries five-year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), covering the period 2011–2015.
These developments in policy and law are important steps toward enhancing the role of literary, artistic and other creative works in socio-economic progress. Harnessing the potential of the creative industries for economic development requires creating a balance between copyright protection and the flows of ideas and knowledge.