CosBots is a copyright society of Botswana set up for the purpose of the collection and distribution of royalties for all copyrighted artistic work like poetry, craft, visual arts, pottery, literal works and the most obvious one—music.
CosBots aims to collect money from people who play or use copyrighted work publicly, like combi drivers, restaurant owners, bars, radio stations and stores like Choppies, amongst others.
The non-profiting organization was set up in 2008, but started to officially operate in October of 2011, and they are hoping to start collecting royalties in July of this year— after licensing the users of copyrighted works and going through all the stages of sensitizing the public and all parties concerned.
The organization was given a grant of P7 million by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to last for a period of three years after Parliament passed the Copyright and Neigbouring Rights (Amendment) Act in 2005.
Itumeleng Mangole, the Communications Manager of CosBots, said that this is a great move by the government as it’ll give Batswana artists an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labour. According to her, a lot of countries have wanted to pay Batswana artists for using their songs on their radio stations but the absence of a royalty collection agency in Botswana made it impossible to do so.
“We will work hand in hand with other countries like Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe. They will collect for us and we will collect for them,” she said.
She gave the example of how Malawian radio stations are always playing Shumba Ratshega’s songs but they have no way of paying him for his intellectual work.
Mangole also took the opportunity to talk about some other ways that the organization is going to benefit its registered members. Apart from the marvelous fact that the registration for membership will be free, Magole said that they are also going to give free legal advice on issues concerning copyright.
“If an artist and a publisher have a misunderstanding, we’ll make sure that the artist gets what they deserve looking at international standards,” she said.
Mangole also said that the organization will not only benefit local artists but will also benefit international artists. For example, if Beyonce’s song is played ten times on the radio, the organization will make sure to collect money from radio stations for the number of times they played that song and send it overseas.
Asked why they decided to set up the organization when international countries are not even aware of the existence of our country and when they don’t even know that we are playing their songs, she said that this set up will, most importantly, benefit local artists because previously, the talented youngsters had to register with SAMBRO—a South African collection agency which was not entirely beneficial to them because they are not South African artists.
What concerns her most is that Batswana’s work has been getting used for free and CosBots will put a stop to that.
Talking about whether the radio stations will be able to afford this, Mangole said that she believes that they will as CosBots will make sure that they are charged according to the category they fall into.
“A radio station won’t be charged the same way as a shop like Choppies because unlike radio stations, Choppies can still get customers even if they don’t play music, but a radio station needs to play music. So we won’t charge them the same. We will put them in categories.”
Mangole is sure that radio stations are making enough money which means that they will be able to afford the upcoming charges, charges for using other people’s work to keep their own businesses going.
The concerns of the local artists is that money will be shipped to international countries, and that will affect our economy negatively while boosting another country’s economy. They suggest an increase in the number of local songs played and a decrease in the number of foreign songs played.
Mangole said that their mandate is not to monitor how many local songs are being played on radio but she hoped that with the establishment of CosBots there will be a policy change, one that will make sure that more local songs are played. She said that as soon as they (radio stations) start realizing that they are sending a lot of money outside, they might change the content on their playlist.