Malawi Awaits Reviewed Copyright Law02/03/2016 by Munyaradzi Makoni for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.Artists in Malawi are hopeful that the Copyright Bill, drafted four years ago, will be discussed when the parliament meets in the first quarter of this year, paving a way to plug unauthorised use of works that they say has led to massive loss of revenue. Enraged by a delay in enacting the bill into law, musicians in Malawi in December threatened unspecified action against the government of the Southern African country if bill is not tabled when the parliament opens in 2016. The groups pushing have been receiving support in their effort from developed country rights holder groups, according to sources.Creators attend awareness seminar in Blantyre, MalawiThe bill like the current law covers all aspects of creativity, literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, expressions of folklore developed and maintained in Malawi, performances, audiovisual work, broadcasts and typographical arrangements of works published in Malawi.Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango, president, Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM), told a news conference on 2 December that it was worrisome that the bill has been gathering dust on government shelves at Capital Hill in Lilongwe since 2011 while musicians were making losses due to unauthorised use of their works.Mhango said his calls were prompted by unsatisfactory answers from the government on taking the bill to parliament.Intellectual Property Watch spoke with Dora Salamba, chief executive of the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA), a state-run organisation established in 1992 which administers the copyright law in the country. COSOMA also operates as a collective management organisation responsible for managing all creators’ rights.Salamba said the review of the Copyright Act 1989, enacted after repealing the Copyright Act of 1965 adopted from British legislation, was within the mandate of her organisation.Malawi copyright awareness seminar“Usually the process of amending and repealing the law is long because it involves engaging various stakeholders,” Salamba said. “As you will also appreciate the law is not meant to be static and so in the process of amending the Copyright Act, new developments such as the conclusion of the Marrakesh Treaty took place when the bill was still being drafted.”The bill had therefore to take into account newer developments in the copyright field, she added.The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled was concluded successfully by the World Intellectual Property Organization in June 2013. The treaty seeks to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or print disabled.Salamba said if the copyright bill is enacted into law, there are numerous benefits for both the creators as well as the public.Fines and penalties to deter infringement of copyright will be increased. The protection of creators’ rights against unauthorised use in the digital environment will be broadened.The income base for authors would be widened through expanded licensing areas including ringtones, downloads and internet broadcasting, which will lead to increased revenue to the creators.The bill provides a framework for increased promotion and development of Malawi’s culture as enshrined in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II through provision of incentives such as cultural fund to promote arts development and blank recording media levies.There would be easy access to published copyright works by the visually impaired persons and persons with print disabilities in line with the Marrakesh Treaty.Access to information through expanded provisions on exceptions and limitations of copyright for use by libraries, educational and research institutions would improve, according to Salamba.Cost of DelayThe delay in signing the bill has allowed a continued increase in piracy because the fines in the current Copyright Act are not deterrent enough, Salamba said.“It has [also] been a challenge for COSOMA to venture into new areas of licensing use of copyright works, particularly potential areas that have come about due to the advancement of digital technology,” she said.MUM President Mhango has complained on several occasions that MWK5000 – MWK15000 (US$7 –US$20), the current penalty imposed on traders of pirated works such as music and films is too low.Creators workshop in the city of Blantyre – credit COSOMASalamba said the abuse of copyright is a big problem in Malawi, as is the case in many other countries.“It will be difficult for me to quantify losses in monetary terms with no proper study on the impact of piracy. I may say that in terms of percentages, at least piracy of local works is lower (30 percent) as compared with that of foreign works which can be in the range of 60- 80 percent,” she said.There is also a provision of maximum imprisonment for one year.Eziaus Mkandawire, the president of Malawi Filmmakers Association, which draws its membership from professional filmmakers and students, agreed with Salamba.“Piracy is a rampant vice, remedies to address it in the court of law are minimal or non-existent,” he told Intellectual Property Watch.The situation suffocates the budding film industry in the country, Mkandawire added.According to news reports in Malawi, most unauthorised use is by minor peddlers of pirated materials. The main operators have been seldom found out or taken to court. With the small-time dealers, products are usually simply confiscated, and there has also been a yearly tradition of publicly burning pirated materials on World Intellectual Property Day.Police Criminal Investigations Department officer inspecting pirated CD-DVD at a market in Lilongwe Malawi – Credit COSOMASalamba said there is also a dearth of copyright information and rights to musicians in Malawi.She said COSOMA has been carrying out awareness seminars, not only for musicians, but for all the creators with a view to sensitizing them on their rights.“Every year COSOMA holds sensitization programs aimed at educating creators on their rights, but more still has to be done to train as many musicians as possible,” said Salamba.She said COSOMA also administers the rights of authors and publishers of literary works and the organisation is a member of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO) where COSOMA chairs the African Development Committee of IFRRO.According to the official, it is in the interest of IFRRO to facilitate enactment of laws that provide an enabling environment for the authors to benefit from legitimate use of their works.She said to improve the issue of music and artists rights is in Malawi, the organisation has been working with international IP organisations which include WIPO, International Confederation of Societies of Composers and Authors and the Royal Norwegian Embassy.The organisations have been providing financial support aimed at promoting and strengthening the capacity of the rights holder associations including the Musicians Union of Malawi by equipping them with the necessary knowledge, artistic skills and competencies in areas such as project management.COSOMA has 7,900 members, 90 percent of them musicians, the remainder creators linked through their rights holder associations. Image Credits: COSOMAShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)RelatedMunyaradzi Makoni may be reached at email@example.com."Malawi Awaits Reviewed Copyright Law" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.