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By Charity M. Ngabirano

If it is indeed true that singer Bebe Cool owes songwriter Blackskin cash for his role in the Gyenvudde hit, then he was wrong in his move to get him arrested “…on allegations of character assassination, blackmail, and defamation…”

Blackskin, who reportedly wrote Gyenvudde, has also written songs like Ndi Wakabi by Big Eye, as well as Sitidde by Chris Evans and John Blaq.

Bebe Cool allegedly did not honour his part of the bargain with Blackskin. In this case, Bebe Cool not only breached a contract by releasing the song minus paying up what he owes the songwriter, but also went against the laws governing Copyrights and Neighbouring Rights in Uganda.

All the people who were involved in bringing his music to the public are protected under the Neighbouring Rights.  These may include the producer, actors, music publishers and broadcasting companies. These people’s interests are protected by the Neighbouring Rights (they are not really copyright, but are closely related to it).

In instances where the performing artiste is not the writer of that song, the singer will belong to this category of Neighbouring Rights and the writer of the song owns the copyright to the song, unless there is an agreement to the contrary, which, in most cases, involves the singer paying off the writer, once and for all.

In Uganda, copyright is protected automatically when a work is created. The work, however, must be original and it must be expressed in material form of any kind. Here we can say that since Blackskin wrote Gyenvudde, he owns the copyrights to this song.

A copyright owner has exclusive rights to deal with their work as they wish, and may prevent others from using it without their permission. It is because Blackskin is the original creator of the song that he was able to release the original version, done by him. Although this angered Bebe Cool, it does not mean that what Blackskin did is wrong. He has all the rights to deal with that song as he so wishes and since (reportedly) Bebe Cool has not paid him for the song, then the latter should not be dealing with it, in anyway, especially for commercial purposes. No copyright or Neighbouring Right has been transferred, so far.

Registration of a copyright is not mandatory. But to be on a safer side, one “may register”. If something happens and you have to defend your interests and rights, it will be easier if you have legal proof; otherwise, it will be a case of your word against theirs, like instances we’ve seen where artistes are in rows over who owns a song. One claims they wrote it earlier and the one who is performing it also claims it’s theirs.

For work to be copyrighted, it also has to have been created with the independent efforts of the creator. These things of copying other people’s songs and later owning them are legally wrong.

The writer is an advocate

Note: The article is intended to provide information about general statements of law and is not intended to create an advocate-client relationship. Contact a lawyer on specific legal problems

 

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