Namibia copyright law ‘not fit for purpose’

>Lahja Nashuuta

WINDHOEK- THE Namibian Society of Composers and Authors of Music (NASCAM) rues delays in the amendment of the outdated Copyright and Neighbouring Protection Act of 1994.

The society, with about 7,000 members, wants the law amended to bring it in tandem with the current developments, including protecting artistes from online copyright infringements.

NASCAM collects royalties as well registering and licensing all musical works in Namibia. Its chief executive officer, John Max, told The Southern Times that the copyright law is outdated and needs to be changed to suit the digital age as well as to enforce stricter controls and punish those who infringe on the rights of artistes.

“There is rampant online music piracy partly because the copyright law does not provide for deterrent punishment on those involved in the malpractice, and one notes that even radio and television stations do not adequately pay musicians when they use their compositions,” he said.

He added that there are lots of loopholes that need to be plugged for the artistes to benefit from both physical and digital formats “as well as make sure all people involved in the production of music albums benefited, unlike the current situation where only author and composer benefit”.

Max stressed that the music industry is in a dilemma due to the rise in the Internet usage. For instance, most CD outlets in Namibia have closed down, while in some shops music CDs are sold as a side product next to musical instruments, books and other merchandise.

“Digital downloading has really hit the market, record sales plummeted due to easily accessible pirated music and current legislation does not make provisions for the online protection copyrights resulting in illegal downloading and sharing of music without proper compensation,” he said.

To address this dilemma, NASCAM last year submitted a proposal to have the law amended to the Ministry of Youth, Sport and National Service and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology for approval, but has not received responses yet.

“Once approved there will be consultation meetings with stakeholders and artistes, authors, composers themselves and public to source their input,” he said, adding that there has not been adequate consultation with all the relevant stakeholders since 2005.

NASCAM is operating and guided by the current Copyright and Neighbouring Protection Act of 1994. But in its current format, the law limits the society when addressing challenges facing artistes. This is also the reason advanced for the music industry’s lack of profit.

“Our copyright law is outdated and needs to me amended to fit and address challenges facing us in this digital era where music, videos and other artworks are mainly downloaded in different formats and distributed on the Internet without the owners’ consent. And those are the things we want to be address when amending the law and to make sure our artistes are benefiting from their hard-earned product,” Max said.

He said there is a need for a law that will introduce regulatory standards on the local music business and to make sure there is consistence in pricing of an album, instead of artistes randomly pricing their own albums.

Max further noted that NASCAM will host a workshop for local artistes, with the help of experts from South Africa and Nigeria, on how to form and grow a legitimate and firm music industry that will benefit everybody.

“Our music industry lacks unity; everyone is pulling in his own direction as most of the artistes are just interested in themselves. We have artistes that have managed to get tenders from governments and NGOs but they take it for themselves instead of sharing,” he                                                                                 said.

Meanwhile, Max is urging NASCAM members to utilise digital technology to promote their talents around the world because only through online marketing, will their artwork be viewed globally.

He said Namibia has many talented young musicians, who face many challenges including inability to market their compositions inside and outside the country, thus earning little from their work and remaining poor.

Max added, it is now a worldwide practice for musicians to market their compositions digitally through special online distribution companies, sell their works globally, and gain financially.

About 7,000 musicians have already registered with NASCAM for copyright protection and to ensure they get the financial benefit they deserve. During the 2015/16 financial year, R900,000 was paid to active members in royalties. The lion’s share amounting to R783,013 was paid out to local artistes while the remainder was paid out to international artistes.

Max also added that of the total amount collected, 60 percent went to musicians while NASCAM takes 30 percent. The remainder goes towards social responsibility programmes.

Apart from that NASCAM, in collaboration with law enforcement agencies and public, has been tracking down pirating activities around the country and as a result illegal music vendors are hardly seen, said Max. NASCAM, however, continues to monitor any potentially illegal activities, Max  added.

January 2017
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