In 2006 at the Gaborone International Conventional Centre, local artists gathered at a workshop to discuss the way forward on the complaints they had raised about the introduction of a new copyright law.
Among those present at the meeting was Chris “Manto Seven” Mwachisenga, a local rhumba artist, who hailed the workshop as a sign that the music industry was growing.
He later said that all that was needed was a working copyright law and society which would help artists to get what has always been due to them.
Supporting his views was Kabelo Mogwe, a lead singer of Culture Spears, who pointed out that although a song is not tangible, it needs to be protected against pirates.
At the workshop, it was agreed that it was high time radio stations paid artists royalties for playing their music.
Andrew Sanders, who specialises in copyright law, responded by saying the decision could lead to a situation where radio disc jockeys played foreign music only.
“Radio stations are there to make money on advertisement,” he said, assuring the artists that in the midst of everything the copyright law society would help in ensuring the artists are protected.
Almost three years later, and after the establishment of the Copyright Society (COSBOTS), the copyrights and neighbouring rights act has still not been enforced.
The COSBOTS act was passed by parliament in November 2005 and became effective October 1, 2006.
The Chief Executive Officer of COSBOTS, Thato J Mokobi, says that it is in COSBOTS’ interest to educate the public on copyright matters. He said the Society will undertake an intense educational campaign in the near future.
He explains that artists need to register with COSBOTS, become members and through consent, assign or mandate COSBOTS to exercise the rights to correct and distribute royalties on their behalf.
Mokobi further explains that the written consent will enable COSBOTS to collect royalties for works used locally and internationally.
However, it is a long process that requires them to have reciprocal agreements with other Collective Management Organizations around the world. The reciprocal agreement cannot be done all at once, therefore the initial payments may not be as high as expected but COSBOTS will work hard to ensure artists get much of the royalties that are due to them as soon as possible.
“The copyright law strikes a balance between the interests of the innovator and taking consideration the public interest, providing there is an environment in which creativity and invention can flourish,” says Mokobi.
He further explains that protection and promotion of intellectual property in Botswana spurs economic diversification and growth, creates new jobs, and empowers the creative works.
Mokobi says it is alright to pay royalties when the work has been exploited, commercial and/ or for public consumption, therefore the only exemption is private non-commercial use of copyright which will not warrant payment of royalties.
“My African Dream, dee-jaying and any artists performing other people’s pieces for public consumption should pay royalties to the owners of copyright,” Mokobi continues.
He says rules and regulations will be established and ‘users’ notified and educated so that they can appreciate the requirements and application of the law.