Zimbabwe, Land of the Lawless
The world of technology has rules, laws and strict guidelines that must be adhered to. Failure to do so can lead to severe penalties, including having your whole brand shut down and facing criminal charges. But not in Zimbabwe. Nobody cares. We all just want to make our money and forget the rules. The moral fibre of our being has eroded to the point of not caring about rules or following them even when we know that what we are doing is wrong.
Of Domain Names and cybersquatting
Enter some newer web development startups in Zimbabwe. Below is an excerpt from the ZISPA domain name registration policies:
The CO.ZW registry is not an open registry such as .COM where it is simply a matter of first come, first served. We vet all applications in accordance with the following policies:
Known company/organisation names will not be registered without authority from the body concerned. For example, we would not register yahoo.co.zw without authorisation from Yahoo. In case of doubt we may request proof of company registration.
Names of schools, clubs, churches etc must be registered in the name of those organisations, not of individuals.
Zimbabwean place names are reserved for the use of the corresponding national or local government authority.
We strongly object to cybersquatting and will do what we can to prevent attempts at registering domains for that purpose.
Now, there are known registration companies who have taken the liberty of mass buying domain names of schools, holding the same and putting up websites, all without the permission of the school or any communication passed whatsoever. On top of this, some of these organizations have even gone as far as overriding the websites the schools already had, which brings to light the question, "ZISPA, is your domain name registration system that flawed?" To buy a domain, the school must submit a stamped request to that effect, so how are these third party companies cybersquatting?
Getting caught, it is quite unclear whether ZISPA would prosecute the parties breaching their policies or what exactly would happen.
App Developers and Google's Rules
Google has a few, simple and very understandable rules. Google demands that you follow these simple rules or just do not publish your app on their Play Store. Pretty Straightforward.
The first notable rule is:
If you are to sell in-app purchases and in-app subscriptions, then use Android payment methods.
The reason for this is simple. Google takes 30% of every sale you make. To be clear this, does not apply to something like say, if my app sells pizzas, or has a taxi service like Uber. Google does not care about that revenue. The revenue they are talking about is the one where users must pay $1 to get full access to your app, or must but lives in a game, etc.
Considering what is on offer, free access to international markets, a webpage to market all your apps, full analytics to monitor your app's usage statistics and downloads, is 30 cents on the dollar really that much?
So to put it simply, if you have paid for access to an app's full features via Eco-cash or PayNow, then the developer of that app is breaching Google's Policies and they are on their way to getting banned from publishing apps on Google Play.
Google takes their policies very seriously. If you do get caught, you stand to have your Google account banned, all your apps deleted from their stores and all your IP addresses blacklisted as well. That means buying a new phone, computers and getting a new phone number to start over. The reason why local brands are able to slip past this is because our apps do not cause much disruption on the international scene, hence they fly under the radar.
Quickly go to Youtube and go through any Zimbabwean made video, be it a short drama recorded with a smartphone, or an advert for a product from a start-up. There is music being played in the background. We all know the copyright laws surrounding music:
You are not allowed to copy, play, share or use in any way music made by someone without express permission from them or their recording company.
Of interest is the fact that our local ZRP have a division that monitors copyright infringement and copyright laws. Yet zero arrests are made, no one is questioned and nothing is done. Artists are losing a lot of money by having people pirate and use their music in line with their brands without permission.
Well with this one, we all know the penalty is a hefty fine and/or jail time. No negotiations.
Zimbabwe’s new administration seems to be pushing for mass digitization and before going there, it is best to first draft proper laws and set up regulatory bodies that will monitor and enforce these laws.