JOHANNESBURG - Two of my greatest passions, local music and local soccer, are in different ways both victims of illicit trade practices. 

Although we see fewer counterfeit DVDs and CDs being sold at traffic intersections in this increasingly digital age, the illegal downloading and streaming of copyrighted music is a huge problem worldwide.

Music piracy includes the practices of the sale (and therefore the purchase) of fake CDs, illegal online downloads and illegal file sharing. Musicians are being deprived of legitimate revenue, which for many artists is meagre enough, and those who are accessing music in contravention of the Copyright Act are stealing.

The Copyright Act says that the composer or songwriter is the only person who can copy or authorise the copying of that song - and no one else.

Not you and not me. If all our local artists were to stop making music because they cannot make a living from it, imagine how much poorer our musical landscape would be.

As for local soccer, counterfeit supporter shirts and kits are flooding the markets, and are readily available around the townships, as well as in the ever-growing number of shopping centres with strong Asian connections.

The sale of clothing bearing a team's badge is a significant revenue stream for all our sporting codes, but honestly, some of the very poor replicas I have seen at the stadiums is shocking, and no team would sanction the misrepresentation of their club's name in this way.

The textiles, clothing and footwear industries are among the hardest hit in South Africa as a result of the influx of illegal imports, and an estimated R4billion is lost in revenue in this sector.

Online shopping has also seen the trade of “knocked off” goods move from the streets to the internet, making it even more difficult to police.

While smoking is definitely not one of my passions, we have to recognise that the sale of illicit cigarettes also represents a massive loss to our economy, estimated at R6bn a year in lost tax revenue.

In addition, small-scale tobacco farmers are being squeezed out of business by illegal traders who account for what is reported to be as much as 35percent of local cigarette consumption.

Supporters of the illegal cigarette trade are also exposing themselves to significant health risks, as the composition and contents of these tobacco products is entirely beyond the regulations enforced on legal producers. There is no doubt that pick-offs, bootlegged items, counterfeits or downloads that infringe copyright, whatever the form illicit trade takes, all these practices are damaging to our economy and stymie job creation.

And while we vigorously defend our local industries - musicians, clothing companies and local cigarette manufacturers who employ thousands of South Africans between them - the practice of buying illicit items is a worldwide problem.

Consumers accustomed to getting what they want will go all out to find it, even if it isn’t legally available in their country, or accessible to their pockets. Often they find the solution to their consumer cravings on the streets.

Cheap replicas

Luxury brands such as Rolex, Louis Vuitton and Gucci have long been the victims of cheap replicas being sold on street corners in cities all around the world. But next time you go to download a song, buy a bad version of a Sundowns’ shirt - that’s my team - or any other supporters’ kit, or buy a cheap stick of tobacco, think about the jobs you are depriving our composers, designers and farmers of.

It is organised crime syndicates that we are supporting. These are the suppliers to the informal traders, but if we refuse to buy counterfeit goods, we can help stamp out the practice.

Make sure you buy only authentic items and download music from reputable online sites, and preferably make sure that those purchases are of local products.

As a part time DJ, I am reminded of the one-time popular song by the late and talented Senyaka and the legendary Kamazu, entitled Fong Kong, which referred to buying illegal, fake goods.

They called themselves the Hunger Boyz when they released that song, perhaps in reference to the hunger they and other musicians were experiencing at that time, due to the scourge of pirated music that was hurting their industry and which continues today. Don’t buy Fong Kong, rather buy local to sustain and create jobs.

Eustace Mashimbye is Proudly South African chief executive.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.