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By Nelson Kiva

As diplomatic negotiations to agree terms of the Kampala Copyright Protocol rages on at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala, musicians have weighed-in on what they want to be considered

Experts from over 20 African countries are participating in the eight days’ diplomatic negotiations and are expected to agree terms of the first ever protocol on copyright on the African continent by Friday.

Daniel Kazibwe (Ragga Dee), the chairman National Cultural Forum (NCF) urged the experts in the protocol to address the challenge of knowledge gap.

“The issue is about sensitization, an artist goes to the studio and does a song and does not patent it, they don’t have distributors and their work ends up in computers for free and some aggregators’ channels to telecom companies and artists become popular without money. Therefore there is a lot of sensitization that need to be done,” Ragga Dee said.

L-R) Atty Adelyn Cooper the Chairperson of the ARIPO Administrative Council, Bemanya Twebaze the Director General, ARIPO, the Guest of Honor Hon. Kiryowa Kiwanuka the Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda and Mercy Kainobwisho the Registrar General at Uganda Registration Services Bureau. Behind them are other delegates at the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPU) Diplomatic conference on Voluntary Registration of copyright at Speke Resort Munyonyo on August 20, 2021. PHOTO BY CHRISTINE KABAZIRA.

According to Ragga Deee, the protocol should prioritize issues to do with sensitization of artists and other creators saying all the problems were generating from the fact that people do not know their rights. “The one copying the song, the one recording the song, the one transferring the song, all do not know who owns what,” he said.

Phiona Mugerwa aka Phina Masanyalazze, the secretary of Uganda Musicians Association (UMA) highlighted the need for continued engagement of the artists and other creators about their patent rights.

“For instance currently musicians are crying foul that they are broke and yet they are crying out of ignorance. Their works have been exploited without pay and they are not aware. Someone gives out his or her song and begs for it to be paid without knowing that is supposed to be paid,” she said.

The conference being hosted by the Uganda government through the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) and African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) kicked-off on Friday and is expected to end on Friday   August 28, 2021 with the signing of the protocol.

Bemanya Twebaze the Director General, ARIPO addressing the media at the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPU) Diplomatic conference on Voluntary Registration of copyright at Speke Resort Munyonyo on August 20, 2021. PHOTO BY CHRISTINE KABAZIRA

The Protocol is expected to boost the art and creative industry in the member states through guaranteeing copyright promotion, protection and commercialization.  ARIPO is an intergovernmental organization established in 1976 to promote harmonization and the development of intellectual property activities affecting its member states among others.

Its membership include; Botswana, Eswatini, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Somalia (not member of the Harare Protocol), the Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Ugandans in the creative industry especially in the entertainment, software and other copyrighted industries, reportedly lose billions of shillings to theft of intellectual property or piracy. Piracy means the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copies of copyright protected material without the authorization of the right owner.

According to the Uganda Performing Rights Society (UPRS) musicians in the country lose almost 100% of sales to piracy due to the high growth rate of counterfeits in the country.

However according to Philip Kalibala, the copy right manager at URSB, the protocol will  capacitate ARIPO to come up with a regional enforcement mechanism against copyright  infringement  since it has influence in the member countries. “ARIPO has that regional influence and it will be easy for it to establish itself as an enforcement mechanism against infringement through engaging the local offices in case of any violations. It has the infrastructure and the resources to do so,” he said.

The registrar general of URSB, Mercy Kainobwisho in her prelude remarks, expressed concern that the most abundant form of intellectual property among 20 member states of ARIPO was yet to be fully exploited.

“Therefore this meeting is the beginning of the end in terms of closing the gap with respect to harmonized copyright protection mechanism in the region,” she said.  Uganda according to Kainobwisho has a lot of intellectual property resources which need to be support through policy and enforcement in order to benefit the economy.

The ARIPO director general, Bemanya Twebaze, said that ARIPO currently administers four protocols covering patents, trademarks, and traditional knowledge and plant varieties He said the journey began with consultations of member states who have engaged the secretariat up to this point where the text is mature enough to be subject to a diplomatic conference for adoption.

The Attorney General (AG)  of Uganda, Kiryowa Kiwanuka, indicated that the protocol if adopted will ensure copyright registration and protection is recognized among member states of ARIPO.End.

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