Copyright, royalties go a long way in a creative economy

Tuesday September 8 2020

Kwitonda

Charles Kwitonda, Rwanda Society Authors Union's Chairperson. PHOTO | Andrew I. Kazibwe 

ANDREW I KAZIBWE
By ANDREW I KAZIBWE
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Rwanda Utilities Regulation Authority(RURA) recently cautioned broadcasters on the compliance of the copyright and IP laws. Rwanda Society Authors Union (RSAU) chairperson Charles Kwitonda spoke to Andrew I. Kazibwe on the on-going efforts to collect royalties.

Below are excerpts

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RURA, RDB, and RSAU recently wrote to to broadcast media houses reminding them to comply with the law no; 31/2009 of 25/10/2009 on the protection of Intellectual property. What sparked this call?

Rwanda signed the Berne Convention on Copyright. Article 11 provides that every signatory country shall protect equally all artists, be they foreign or local.

This means if a media house claims to play foreign artists they will pay royalties to RSAU, which has the mandate to collect the royalties for foreign artists like Rwandans artists are also represented by those sister societies abroad.

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Royalties of foreign artists will then be transferred through the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers.

The law was enacted 10 years ago and amended in 2018. Why is the emphasis stronger today? Why now?

Rwanda is shifting from an agricultural-based economy to a knowledge-based economy. The creative industry is key to such an economy. The artistes should get incentives from their effort and copyright fees will help them to develop their talent without staying stagnant.

How effective has RSAU been in collecting royalties?

Copyright was a new thing in Rwandans ears. The first step was to raise awareusers of copyrighted works. The second was to license the users of copyrighted works (collection), while the third step was to distribute royalties to rights holders. Fortunately, all these steps were finally achieved last year.

How has been the response by broadcasters following this particular call?

There has been promising progress as some broadcasters liaised with RSAU and currently copyright licence agreement signing has prevailed. Parties are reviewing contract drafts and soon some deals will be closed.

Collection of royalties requires strict monitoring. How is RSAU able to execute this?

RSAU is supported by the government. In terms of monitoring, there will be a partnership with policymakers, implementers, and CMO in order to track the use of copyrighted works in media houses.

If you may, how many broadcasters is this policy targeting? And how much revenue is projected to be collected?

With over 30 radio stations and close to 10 television statios, we can generate approximately Rfw20,000,000 ($20,700) to Rfw30,000,000 ($31,000) annually.

What future prospects does RSAU hold as regards addressing the pending challenges as regards the honoring of the IP Laws?

We hope to achieve our mandate as all stakeholders - policymakers, policy implementers, enforcement bodies - of driving commitment towards copyright compliance.