Collective Rights Management Takes Root In Uganda

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With an increase in the number of entrepreneur artisans in Uganda, a need to protect and benefit from the artisan works has emerged in the country. There is a growing trend in rights management, especially in the fields of musical works, film and art.

Guided by the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, 2006 and the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Regulations of 2010, collective rights management in the country is taking root.

Part of the Copyright and Neighbouring Act, 2006, deals with the procedure for registration of collecting societies as well as terms of work and cancellation of their registration, and qualifications to perform the tasks bestowed upon them.

Already, collecting societies have been registered and are rolling out countrywide outreach and “sensitisation” programmes.

According to James Wasula, secretary general of the Uganda Performing Rights Society (UPRS), a collecting society managing music performing rights, “due to historical reasons, Uganda inherited the British Copyright Act and its entire copyright system.” UPRS has ties to British music industry group BMI.

“The Performing Right Society of England (PRS) continued to administer rights in Uganda as its territory until 1972, when then-President Dr. Idi Amin expelled foreigners from the country,” said Wasula.

In all, he added, Uganda has experienced over 40 years of absence of effective copyright administration.

This lack of copyright administrative structure has cost the industry and government large amounts of money, according to industry. In a random survey carried out by UPRS in mid-2009, it was found that the legitimate music industry loses almost $320,000 per month to people using unauthorised copies. The survey does not speak to the benefits to the population of affordable access to the content, however.

The effect of this theft, as industry sees it, is that music publishers can no longer afford to pay musicians commensurately for their albums. Consequently, many musicians have resorted to self-producing, thinking that it is the music publishers who want to exploit them. The industry loses a colossal sum of money, and the government loses on tax collections, he said.

James said this is because “the concept of copyright management is very new in Uganda, even to the policymakers and its implementers.”

The legal framework is now in place and the relevant institutions like the Uganda Registration Service Bureau, the police and the judiciary are also in place to facilitate enforcement.

Audiovisual Rights

Bonny M. Kasujja is the program manager and public relations officer for Uganda Federation of Movie Industry (UFMI), a collective society specialising in audiovisual copyrights management.

“We still have a challenge of copyright enforcement,” said Kasujja. “Even people and agencies who are supposed to help in effective enforcement are ignorant on what copyright entails. Public sensitisation of copyright aspects has been entirely on the shoulders of collecting societies. With little external funding, such costly operations give us a challenge, and have slowed our outreach pace.”

Kasujja said that movie producers in Uganda are robbed of revenue while consumers are robbed of quality products and performance guarantees.

Although UFMI was registered in 2006, shortly after the enactment of the Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act, it became fully operational about two years ago.

“It has been a slow process, because of the needed preparations,” Kasujja explained. “But we are now set. The loyalty tariffs have now been approved by all stakeholders. And in the last six months we have kicked off the licensing phase and will start paying the loyalty fees by the end of the year.”

“As UFMI, we have 15 inspectors and 8 copyright coordinators all spread across the country, to help us give out licences and fight copyright infringement.” Kasujja added.

The UFMI administers two types of copyrights: individual copyrights and production house copyrights. So far, UMFI has 87 fully registered production house members, and over 2,000 individual members.

Under individual profile registration, members register under one of nine guilds. These include: script writers, actors, producers, publishers, directors, technical crew, location managers, translators, and costume and makeup designers.

UPRS, which has been in operation since 1985, currently has over 2,000 members, on whose behalf it collects royalties.

The society is starting to reap some benefits. In the year ending 2012, revealed James, UPRS collected over $40,000. “Though this is one of the largest collections in a year so far, it is still small when compared to other countries,” he said. “For instance, in the same year, our neighbours Kenya collected over $2 million.”

Some of the leading royalty payments come from jukeboxes, broadcasters, discotheques and hotels.

UPRS, according to James, “offers blanket licences to our licensed music users. This way, even upcoming musicians get to earn from their product, and users get to enjoy a full banquet of our musical products.” UPRS negotiates the percent of royalties paid to the musical creators on a case-by-case basis, he said.

UPRS and UFMI have signed multiple direct reciprocal agreements with other societies worldwide for the exclusive control and administration of their copyrights in Uganda.

The list of the collecting societies includes: Copyright Society of Tanzania, International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, Association of Nollywood Core Producers, and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, among many others.

As collecting societies, the two offer security devices or “banderoles” to music, audiovisual recordings/cinematograph films intended or offered for sale, rental, hiring, lending or otherwise distributed to the public for commercial purposes in Uganda. They also ensure that foreign produced film and music sold in Uganda have certified security devices from collecting societies in the countries of origin of the products.

Now the public is becoming aware of the need to register their works under copyright laws, and even go to court to seek redress.

“The fact that now a person can go to court when he feels that the copyrights of his works have been infringed upon shows a step in the right direction,” said James.

The fact that the Commercial Court has come out with pronouncements on the powers of collecting societies to demand for royalties in music performances is a step in the right direction, he added.

An analysis of one such copyright case involving UPRS is available here.


Hillary Muheebwa may be reached at

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