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Weak laws, piracy top list of artistes’ woes



Creative industries in East Africa are grappling with corruption and low staffing in collective management organisations, copyright infringement, broadcasters that do not pay royalties and ignorance of of their rights among artistes.

“There are governance issues in CMOs in Uganda. We receive complaints from the creators that CMOs collect royalties but do not pay the rightful owners. We have to balance between supporting CMOs and making sure that content creators are paid. Whoever owns rights should receive the royalties due to them,” said Jane Okot p’Bitek Langoya, the deputy registrar general (registries) at Uganda Registration Services Bureau.

“We struggle with corruption in the private CMOs in Kenya. The copyright owners always come to us for help. We should ensure private CMOs collect and payout equally,” said Edward Kipsigei, the executive director, Kenya Copyright Board.

“Since they are private, they do not report to the public bodies and so the regulator comes in to fight mischief through forensic audits and inspections.

Our balance sheet is a public document on our website. What the regulator wants is peace and money in the pockets of the creators,” Mr Kipsigei added.

In May 2018, Kenya Copyright Board banned the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) from collecting music royalties following an outcry from musicians over alleged embezzlement of their royalties by the latter.

“We lacked laws that could tame the collecting bodies. The MCSK existed for close to 34 years but there was an outcry from the industry due to corruption and lack of proper structures to ensure that artistes receive their royalties,” said Samuel Onyango operations manager at Music Publishers Association of Kenya.

“With the proposed amendment of the Kenya Copyright Act, the Kenya Copyright Board will be empowered to deal with any CMO that does not meet the 70-30 per cent threshold. It will tackle corruption and over-expenditure and artistes can reap benefits of their work,” Mr Onyango added.

“Yes, there have been claims that we do not pay them royalties, but we have proof that we have paid out royalties for at least five years. We are very transparent and are audited by certified external auditors every year. We submit reports to the Uganda Registration Services Bureau and CISAC every year and post our audited accounts on our website,” said James Wasula, the chief executive officer, Uganda Performing Right Society.

“We hold annual general meetings and have rejuvenated leadership through elections. We have trained and enthusiastic staff and have contributed over Ush200 million ($52,663) in taxes in the past two years,” Mr Wasula added.

“We have the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act of 1999, which is under review. There are mixed views as to whether we should separate the copyright and collection management functions,” said Doreen Sinare, the Copyright Society of Tanzania, chief executive officer and copyright administrator.

“We only have 14 staff members to collect royalties in Tanzania as we are only based in Dar es Salaam. We need more staff members and offices outside Dar,” Ms Sinare added.

On copyright infringement in Uganda, Mr Wasula observed: “Like in most African countries, respect for intellectual property rights is still very, very low. People hawk infringing material with impunity. Some broadcasters do not comply despite our complaints to the regulators.”

“As in many African countries, non-compliance and piracy are rampant. These have resulted in loss of royalties and revenues from direct sale of CDs and DVDs.

“We are dealing with these issues and have realised that weak laws contributed a lot to this state of affairs. Once the Kenyan Copyright Act is revised and enacted, the Kenya Copyright Board will have more power to deal with piracy,” said Mr Onyango.

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