Parliament calls for swift gov’t action on Copyright Law Amendments

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The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, has tasked the Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka, to table the Bill amending the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act of 2006, expressing discontent with delays on the government’s side.

The Bill was initially proposed and drafted by a private Member, Hillary Kiyaga, alias Dr. Hilderman (NUP, Mawokota County North), who, in agreement with the government, resolved to merge his amendments with those of the government into one.

However, to the Deputy Speaker’s dismay, the government has not played its part and has delayed Kiyaga, whose Bill is ready for the first reading.

“Attorney General, you need to push the Prime Minister to get this Bill on the order paper. We granted a member permission to draft the Bill and he has been pushing that his Bill is ready to be tabled – we need this Bill as early as possible,” said Tayebwa while chairing the plenary sitting on Wednesday.

The Minister of State for Energy and Mineral Development (Minerals), Phiona Nyamutoro, also expressed the urgency for the government to table the Bill.

“It is very frustrating; these Ugandans are stranded on how to fruitfully harness the benefits of their sweat, the work they have put in overtime and everything in their petition can be addressed in the amendment,” said Nyamutooro.

The two were responding to the report of the Committee of Information, Communication Technology and National Guidance on the petition by the Uganda National Musicians Federation on amendments to the Copyrights and Neighbouring Rights Act of 2006.

Hon. Tonny Ayoo (second, right) leans forward to listen to other MPs thoughts on the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act.

The report presented by the deputy chairperson of the committee, Hon. Tonny Ayoo, was in agreement with petitioners on the need to revise charges for caller ring-back tunes (CRBTs) to ensure a fairer distribution of revenue in the percentage to be retained by artists.

The committee established that there were no standard formulas for determining the sharing of revenue from caller ring-back tunes and as a result, artists were being cheated.

“The current distribution model allocates very low revenue to the artists which is unfair and exploitative, as they own the content. There is a need to have equitable sharing of revenue provided for in the regulations or statutory instruments to avoid the unfairness and inequitable distribution of revenue,” said Ayoo.

The committee further observed that despite unfair share for artists, they were subjected to delayed or non-payment and faced challenges in directly suing telecommunication companies for payments under CRBTs because of a lack of direct dealings with the operators.

Artists go through middlemen known as aggregators who deal directly with telecom companies and eventually take a bigger portion of revenue, the committee observed.

“Artists can barely go to court with aggregators who prefer to work directly with telecoms. They are mostly foreign-based and prefer their countries of jurisdiction for the settlement of disputes,” read the committee report.

On the quest for broadcasters to dedicate 90 percent of airtime to Ugandan music as a way of promoting local content and supporting the development of the industry, the committee observed that it was both unreasonable and impractical as talent globally is dictated by quality.

“The proposed 90 percent music airplay will be challenged by the consumers for being unfair and an intrusion of their freedom and right to exercise their choice of content or entertainment,” said Ayoo.

Legislators rejected the plea by petitioners to levy tax on devices used in the reproduction of copyright-protected works and instead proposed that such levy be imposed on software capable of transferring, copying, and storing copyrighted content.

It was, therefore, an express recommendation of the committee for the government to expeditiously reintroduce the Local Content Bill for enactment into law, arguing that it will go a long way to addressing the prayers of the petitioners related to local content.

The Attorney General pledged to furnish the House with updates on when the cabinet is likely to discuss the Copyrights and Neighbouring Rights Amendment Bill.

“We have consulted widely on the issues of copyright and we have completed presentations to the stakeholders – we have prepared a cabinet paper, and this has been high on the agenda of the President and cabinet,” said Kiwanuka.

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