Thursday, October 1, 2020

Do local artists understand the Copyright Act?

Many times we have heard lofty praise from a talent judge saying, “You made the song your own” after a musical performance.

But it takes on a different tone when the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act is introduced.

According to Timothy Moalusi, Acting Copyright Administrator at the Registrar of Companies, the author of a musical composition owns the exclusive rights to broadcasting the song, communication of the work to the public and the rights to public performances.

And, contrary to the age-old tradition of aspirant singers choosing material from the extensive catalogue of popular music without seeking approval to sing at talent searches, Moalusi informed Sunday Standard, “The Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act does not have a clause that exempts talent show participants or those auditioning from performing other peoples music and creations.”

Veteran jazz guitarist, John Selolwane, however, believes that an audition should be treated as an interview.
“Auditions are performed in a private situation,” he said. “And as a result, I don’t believe that musicians need copyright clearance from the authors.”

However, Selolwane continued, ”If the audition is then brought to the public through means of staging the show or broadcast to the public, it is then the show’s producers/organisers who must gain clearance of the copyrights.”

On the other hand, young jazz guitarist, Kabo Leburu, believes that there has been a wholesale plunder because of there being no copyright law enforcement effort.

“Though everyone knows the legal warning that appears on every CD or tape, word for word, ‘you may not copy, hire, lend publicly perform…’ it doesn’t mean anything to us,” he said.

“People audition, using other peoples music and we don’t think anything of it,” he said. “It could be that because an artist as big as, say Celine Dion, might find it worthless to sue a small time band who are performing her music publicly.”

Leburu rounded off by saying that perhaps the education on the copyright and neighbouring rights act should be re-enforced.

The popular annual national talent search, My African Dream, is organised by Maitisong’s Director, Rosalyn Beukes. And she said “ignorance of the law is never bliss, we are interested in learning the guidelines of the copyright and neighbouring rights act.”

“My African Dream is treated as a non-profit making activity, in that all revenue collected is given back, through charitable donations,” she said.

Yet, Copyright Administrator, Moalusi says, “In systems where Copyright Societies are in operation, competitors and talent show organisers should approach the collecting society to help them obtain permission from the owner of the copyright.”

He, however, says that in the current situation of Botswana where the copyright society is not yet operational, it means that talent show organisers should seek authorisation directly from the authors.

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