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Benchmarking needed in Europe before amending Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2006 – MP Tonny Ayoo

(Last Updated On: 9 November 2023)

Summary: The Deputy Chairperson, MP Tonny Ayoo said the broadcasters are known and with the digital platforms we can audit because the UCC is there. 

Kampala | Appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on ICT & National Guidance who are working on the proposed amendment of Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2006, Minister of State for Gender and Culture Affairs, Peace Regis Mutuuzo said her ministry has initiated discussion within Cabinet on how to consolidate this mandate. 

In doing so, she said the sector will be better regulated. Her statement follows a number of petitions by the Uganda Musicians Federation and others to Parliament saying telecoms and media houses use their hard-made content with little or no payment, especially from the telecoms. 

After the petitions, the matter was forwarded to the Committee on ICT & National Guidance whose Deputy Chairperson, MP Tonny Ayoo (Kwania County) interacted with Minister Mutuuzo on Wednesday, November 8.

“Chairperson, concerning the issue on the table, in April 2021, H.E. the President issued a Directive to the Minister of Finance to study a proposal to impose a levy on gadgets used in the theft of copyrights contained in a petition by the Uganda Comedians Association (TUCA). There were other issues in the Directive,” she told the Committee. 

She further told the Committee that the Permanent Secretary of her ministry was asked to link between the different Ministries, Agencies and Departments (MDAs) that had a role to play. 

“There has generally been consensus within government that some reforms especially in the Copyright Act needed to be made to make provisions for a private copy levy to provide remuneration to artists and writers for the use of their works on gadgets, better protection of works on the Internet which has become the main market for cultural goods and services,” she added. 

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In her post-Committee interaction with tndNews, the Culture Affairs minister said the petitions have also reenergized their energy to have the Copyright Law amended.

 “It’s a very old Law. That first Law has only been re-amended once in 1958 and amended in 1993. There are a number of emerging ways in which music and artists’ work is marketed and their royalties were being lost along the way.

“So, when this Law is amended it is going to incorporate the emerging ways in which the royalties can be generated and streamlined. And so the owners of the intellectual property will be able to benefit from it.”

Why the amendment is so important

Committee’s Deputy Chairman, MP Tonny Ayoo spoke at length to tndNews, saying that the amendment to the Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act 2006 is very important because there is advancement in technology where we are going into the digital world, where most of the activities are done online, the group of artists and creative are realizing that many of their creative works are being utilised, being used at free cost or being used and other people are taking advantage of it without them benefiting anything from it. 

“So, the Act should be amended so as to include the electronic devices, the use of computers, the use of live streaming; the use of tablets so that whoever – even you using your smartphones – if you downloaded – you have used any piece of work –  part of the money (after download) should be given to the artists and this was lacking and it is why this amendment is very important.

“As you are aware, the artists petitioned Parliament and the petition was referred to the Committee to process and see how best they can be of help. One of them is the caller ring-back tune where they are complaining the telecoms are not paying them well. Also, radio stations and television stations that play their music are not paying them and yet it is required that they needed to pay them but also through their collective management organization and UPRS that is not yet remitting money to them. 

“So, the Committee is to look at all these other issues and ensure that recommendation is presented to Parliament for policy reforms but also to ensure that the amendment of the Act covers everything that has been raised. And as you know, the artists’ work is not stationed under any one ministry. You find there is a Ministry of Justice through the Uganda Registration Services Bureau that is also handling a section, you find the Ministry of ICT, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Trade and Cooperative, and Ministry of Gender. Others are with the Police.

“We are also looking at if we can have one body that would regulate (govern) artists and performing artists and culture just like the National Sports Act under the National Council of Sports that is regulating everything around sports and also a way that the government can fund them in an organized way. 

“For artists, the musicians, at the moment, it is hanging in the air, even the ministry of Gender that they think they fall under handles a very small section of things related to them. How they can come under one big body is still a problem and now the committee is heading to see how some of them can be included in the amendment.

Asked if the amendment can be done before the year ends, he said the amendment can’t be done before the end of the year. Why? “At the moment the Ministry of Justice that is leading under the Attorney General is moving around the country collecting views from artists because we didn’t want to only look at the big artists, the musicians and comedians who are in Kampala. So, that is why they went to Gulu, they went to Mbarara and Eastern and now they are coming to Kampala to get the views of everybody then after that this is going to be presented to Cabinet and issues that are raised there are discussed by Cabinet.

If the Cabinet okays everything, the Committee Deputy Chairman said then the draft Bill will come. “And according to the roadmap, by the end of November 2023, it is expected that maybe the Cabinet will have seen it then the draft Bill come. But it is not going to be that fast because this thing covers a lot of issues, it touches on tax amendment, putting a levy on TVs, smartphones, and memory cards because those are the gadgets that remit the works of the creative. 

“Then it also touches on the enforcement, the aggregator outside the telecoms. When you look at that, it touches on the businesses of other people, this must be studied carefully, bench-marking should be done both in Africa (Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa) even in Europe and Eastern Asian countries and we see how they do it and how can we make it better. 

“So, this thing is very complex, it handles delicate things that we shouldn’t think it is something we are rushing so that at the end of the time we come out with a Law that is workable and caters for everybody and does not infringe on the rights or the business of another person,” he concluded. 

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