Ugandan music producers need knowledge on copyright law to benefit from their trade

Oct 11, 2023

Whereas the copyright Law in Uganda provides protection of artistic intellectual works with their neighboring rights, producers seem to be ignorant about it and so it has not worked for them. Different organizations have talked about copyrights but none has implemented it.

Dickens Andrew Ahabwe

Admin .
@New Vision

OPINION

By Dickens Andrew Ahabwe

Most of Ugandan music producers are poor because they are ignorant about music business and concentrate on being famous and having hit songs on local media. Many producers make beats for prominent artists for free. In the recent past, a Ugandan music producer went to a concert where the music he produced was being performed and he was denied entry because he did not have a ticket.

While I was thinking about the incident, I remembered music producers who have worked with top Ugandan Artists like Jose Chameleon, Bebe Cool, Bobi wine and Juliana Kanyomozi that are being evicted for house rent. The real questions here are; why can’t music make Ugandan producers rich even when it makes a lot of sales? Why would a song be played on all TV and Radio stations in Uganda and the producer remains the same? How can music producers benefit from their works?

The answer to these questions is copyright. Producers need to know that every song has two copyrights associated with it: one for the composition which, is also referred to as the publishing side of the copyright, and the other for the recording itself, also known as the master. Composition or publishing copyright royalties are collected from the publishing portion of a song and split between the songwriter and the publisher. On the other hand, recording or master copyright deals with digital performance and master recording royalties that are shared amongst the recording artist and the producer. Music business involves many stakeholders who include publishing companies, lyricists, producers, promoter, and managers. All these have a share on these proceeds from music. Unfortunately, the producer receives the smallest portion of these proceeds due to lack of copyright knowledge.

Whereas the copyright Law in Uganda provides protection of artistic intellectual works with their neighboring rights, producers seem to be ignorant about it and so it has not worked for them. Different organizations have talked about copyrights but none has implemented it. Uganda Performing Rights Society (UPRS) usually organizes meetings to teach about copyright but has not explained to producers what share of royalties actually belongs to them and how to get it. UPRS has even paid royalties to some of the stakeholders but ignored music producers. Ugandan producers do not know that they have the rights to make and distribute copies of the work they produce for musicians besides reusing it especially to make remixes or videos.

Other royalties producers should benefit from producing music include: - Public Performance Royalties which should be paid by PROs (Performing Rights Organizations) to songwriters and publishers for the use of public broadcasting of their music.  There is also the Mechanical Royalties associated with the composition of the song which is a payment owed to the producer whenever a copy of their music is made. Besides, there are Digital Performance Royalties that non-interactive digital streaming services pay to the producer each time their sound recording is used. Furthermore, Master Recording Royalties are the payments that producers earn when the sound recording is streamed, downloaded, or physically bought.  In fact, Video Producers must get permission from the audio producer to use original music in any kind of moving image.

Based on these copyright issues, it becomes prudent that every producer should charge a fee for recording any audio for the musician. Producers should also receive at least twenty five percent (25%) of the of the net receipts paid to the artist for exploitation of the Master recording including the sales of records or any flat fee received by the artist for licensing or sublicensing such recordings.

A single 'producer' in Uganda assumes the roles of composer, musician, engineer, and producer of the project. As a matter of fact, the producer contributes almost 90% of the product. This should be reflected in the agreements signed between singer and producers. Producers should keep in mind that each agreement affects how much their royalties will be. However, due to the ignorance about these rights, they do not reap from their music and continue being poor.

Dickens Andrew Ahabwe is a music teacher, lecturer and music producer working with HIMBISA RECORDS in Kampala.

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