Monday, October 26, 2020

BOMU breaths life into copyright law

The Botswana Musicians Union plans to hold a copyright workshop to move the government to resuscitate the law of 2000 currently suffocating under the unwillingness of the responsible minister to sign it into operation.

The workshop is scheduled for the beginning of December.

The failure of cabinet to bring the Copyright Act of 2000 into operation was based on technical shortcomings of the law, among them the absence of a provision for arbitration mechanisms in the event of disputes between copyright owners and users.

The law also failed, despite years of legal crafting by the attorney general’s office, the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs responsible for culture, the Ministry of Trade currently spearheading legislation relating to intellectual property and indigenous knowledge, to provide for a copyright collecting society.

The country’s broadcaster’s, with the government media in the lead, have historically refused to accede to international and domestic conventions and laws requiring them to pay for use of copyrighted creative works because, they claimed, there was no collecting society.

Botswana nevertheless appears in United Nations and Southern African Development Community documents, among the countries that have an active and effective copyright regime.

There is yet no record of government payment of royalties for airplay. Private radio stations have said they will pay and pass on the cost to the advertiser but they also take the lead from government.

The BOMU workshop will focus on ‘establishing a collecting society and strengthening the culture industries’. It will be done in partnership with the International Intellectual Property Institute (IIPI) based in the United States of America and in cooperation with Botswana’s ministry of trade.

IIPI is a US government sponsored institute that works through governments to foster worldwide appreciation of intellectual property rights.

IIPI is expected to update the workshop on cooperation between itself and the government of Botswana towards the establishment of a copyright society.
The law department of the University of Botswana will be asked to provide background to the historical development of the copyright law of Botswana.

There will be discussion on the building of a local music industry, business practices in southern Africa, protection of movies and music, radio and television distribution in southern Africa, including local case studies related to copyright.

BOMU wants to invite the permanent secretaries at the ministries of home Affairs and trade to deliver the keynote comments on efforts towards the establishment of copyright society in Botswana.

Botswana artists have been almost entirely dependent on the South African based Southern African Music Rights Association (SAMRO) for enforcement of artists’ economic rights over the use of their works.

Recent developments indicate that the Botswana government has been wanting to set up its own collecting society, and seeks to deny private interests the legal right to establish a non-government collecting organisation for a number of years.

The musicians however question how the government, being the leading contravenor of copyright law particularly in respect of recording rights and royalties, could be the custodian of a collecting society.

BOMU officials say that special effort will be made to invite participants from outside Gaborone including vital stakeholders in the telecommunications industry, state and private broadcasters, performing and graphic artists, copyright enforcers such as the police, customs of officers and others.

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