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Cabinet endorses policy on intellectual property

By Taddeo Bwambale

Added 29th May 2019 03:36 PM

The policy is intended to guide the implementation of the copyright law, which provides for the protection of literary, scientific and artistic intellectual works and their neighbouring rights.

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Cabinet on Monday approved the National Intellectual Property Policy, 2019 (File Photo)

The policy is intended to guide the implementation of the copyright law, which provides for the protection of literary, scientific and artistic intellectual works and their neighbouring rights.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY  PERFORMING ARTS 
 
Every time a song plays on radio or at a wedding reception, most listeners in Uganda will pay attention to the lyrics or the tune.
 
It might now be time to pay more attention to the artiste; writer or producer, after Cabinet on Monday approved the National Intellectual Property Policy, 2019.
 
The policy is intended to guide the implementation of the copyright law, which provides for the protection of literary, scientific and artistic intellectual works and their neighbouring rights.
 
Shortcomings in the enforcement of the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act have granted free rein to unscrupulous persons to pirate copyrighted works or reproduce them without permission.
 
Government spokesperson and executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, Ofwono Opondo said the approval of the policy would guarantee that artistes benefit from their creations.
 
“If you are an artiste and people play songs at your wedding without permission, it might constitute an offence because that is your property,” he explained Tuesday.
 
One of the targets of the policy is to tighten protection of intellectual property rights and protect the arts industry, which is fast-growing but also too exposed.
 
Under the new arrangement, government will tighten inspection and enforcement to ensure that creators benefit from their innovations.
 
“People who are dubbing other people’s work on the streets commit a criminal offence. They must pay for something. This is the direction all developed countries have taken,” Ofwono stated.
 
James Wasula, the general secretary of the Uganda Performing Rights Society, which promotes the rights of musicians, said the policy was ‘good news’ but long overdue.
 
“The laws are there but without a policy, little can be achieved. It will now make our work easier by encouraging government to enforce compliance,” Wasula stated.
 
While broadcasters in Uganda have an arrangement through which they pay royalties to UPRS for songs aired on their platforms, Wasula said compliance level was below 50%.
 
Bill Tibingana, the Head of Radio at Vision Group said the broadcasters under their umbrella National Association of Broadcasters, negotiated a flat fee which they pay to UPRS every year.
 
“Vision Group writes a cheque to UPRS once every year. We pay for all the local and international content that airs on all its outlets,” he explained.
 
He, however, noted that the royalties were not a major source of income for artists and suggested that they explore other revenue sources including performances or downloads.
 
Tibingana also noted that royalties were a delicate subject that requires striking a balance between protection of artistes’ rights and the need to promote their works through the same platforms.
 
“If the fees are too high, it will block radio and TVs from airing them and it can destroy the industry because artistes may use underground means,” he explained.
 
Alexander Bagonza, a musician and songwriter better known by his stage name A Pass, said artistes can benefit more from their work if structures exist for them to earn royalties.
 
“In America and the UK, where my songs play on radio and TV, I am paid as a song writer. I am publishing my work,” he stated in an interview with New Vision Tuesday.
 
 He, however, observed that it would require strong institutions to work to collect royalties. A Pass also noted that a delicate balance was needed to ensure that artistes get both airplay and royalties.
 
Apart from musicians, publishers are also pushing for similar royalty schemes through the Uganda Reproduction Rights Organisation (URRO).
 
The Act provides for the establishment of collecting society to promote and encourage creativity in the artistic, literary and scientific fields in Uganda.
 
UPRS and URRO are two of the collecting societies in Uganda representing musicians and publishers, respectively.
 
URRO currently grants licenses to institutions including universities for photocopying of literary, artistic and other works protected by the copyright law.
 
Under the arrangement, still in its inception, royalties are paid to an author depending on the number of copies made out of one’s works in a year. Pamphlets are not copyright protected.
 
Reproducing published works without the license of the copyright holder or their agent is an offence, which attracts a fine of sh2m, a four-year jail term or both.

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