Copyright and royalties are artiste's bread and butter; pay them

Thursday June 4 2020

Samuel Sangwa.

Samuel Sangwa, CISAC's regional director for Africa. PHOTO | ANDREW I. KAZIBWE 

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Collection of royalties is an emotive debate in most African countries due because the Copyright and Intellectual Property (IP) law hasn’t yet been established.

In others it isn’t active, but the International Confederation of Society of Authors and Composers (CISAC) is now following up on this for the creatives and the creative industry.

Established in 1926, CISAC represents four million creatives of 239 Copyright Societies from around the world. It is present in 129 countries and holds 37 Copy Right Societies from 31 countries in Africa.

Andrew I. Kazibwe spoke to Samuel Sangwa, CISAC’s Regional Director for Africa, about how embracing the culture of collection and payment of artists’ royalties as an income from their sweat.

What role does CISAC play for artistes and creation?

CISAC majorly oversees implementation of copyright laws and royalties collection through copyright societies. These play a very important role for the creative industry.


Basically the law on Intellectual Property or the Copyright Law exists in most countries. This ensures that artistes get paid for their creation, which could be songs, writings, poems or other art.

Copyright societies are charged with collecting these royalties, and distributing them to the owners of the content. CISAC was established to bring together copyright societies, equip them with expertise and technical tools for effective operation.

How active is CISAC in Africa?

In Africa CISAC is active, but through its members. With the currently 37 Copy Right Societies from 31 countries in Africa, comprising of up to a million creators.

How do you determine which creatives ought to benefit from the creation and royalties in return?

The whole Intellectual Property idea is to see how to support people bringing innovation into our lives. It means creation from your intellect. Creators can exist in various types of art.

For instance, in music we may have the composer, author, lyricist, singer and others, just like in audio-visual projects like movies where we have screen writers, directors, performers and others.

When it comes to monetising the works, isn’t there a mix-up as regards rights to earning even after the artiste sells their works, like a painting to a hotel?

Creative content is part of most business models like hotels, clubs, broadcast media and others. Artistes don’t have stable salaries, so the idea here is about fairness.

As long as the art is continuously used as part of one’s business, then it should be paying the artiste too. The copyright system enables creators to create more, since they are assured of income.

Most broadcast media might resist payment of artistes’ royalties claiming they are promoting the artiste. How do you harmonise this?

That is a common excuse that broadcasters often come up with so as not to pay up.

But we see African channels playing Jay-Z or Rihanna’s songs, so are they promoting them without their consent? Broadcasters still play music of deceased artistes. They take advantage of desperate artistes, but the law is very clear -- you play, you pay.

How does CISAC work with governments, and how easy is it?

We work with copyright societies in respective countries. We equip them to efficiently collect and distribute royalties, but also sensitise public about the laws. We liaise with policymakers, the Judiciary, Customs, enforcement entities and police to enforce the copyright laws.

How are African countries embracing this cause?

More governments are recognising the importance of culture. The African Union has declared 2021 as the Africa Heritage and Cultural year, with a realisation of how Culture is not only entertainment, but an economy sector.

There is need for more investment in this sector for growth and creation of employment opportunities.