Last Friday, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LOP) Hon. Mathias Mpuga chaired a meeting to harmonise a Private Members Bill to amend the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, 2006 with that of Government.
Hon. Hillary Kiyaga an opposition Member of Parliament representing Mawokota North had on July 20, 2022 sought leave of Parliament to move the said private members bill. In the meeting, the Government side was led by the Attorney General who was represented by Mr. Pius Biribonwa, the Deputy Solicitor General and other officials from the Ministry of Justice, notably Ms Mercy Kainobwisho the Registrar General of the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB).
The Deputy Solicitor General in his address noted that there were several efforts to study and amend the Copyright Act that government had undertaken including the Uganda Law Reform Commission which was represented in the meeting by Dr Anthony Kakooza; Uganda Registration Services Bureau and other government agencies. He in addition intimated that the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs had gone ahead to prioritise the amendment of the law by including it in the budget for this Financial Year. He noted that it was therefore important to pool efforts with the Private Member of Parliament to come up with an effective law.
The Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) is where the Copyright Act is domiciled. They responded to the proposed amendments in the Private Members Bill titled, “The Copyright and Neighbouring Rights (Amendment) Bill Memorandum.” In her remarks, Ms Mercy Kainobwisho noted that some of the proposed amendments in the Private Members Bill were adequately provided for by the current Copyright Act with the exception of the Private Copy Levy. She noted that CRBTs will be best catered for under the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Regulations.
In the perspective of the URSB, 10 reasons for amending the Copyright and Neighbouring Act 2006 were given including amongst others, the ratification of 5 WIPO treaties needing domestication in local law to provide adequate protections for Ugandan works in foreign markets and in the digital space; provision of exceptions for the visually impaired; enhancement of the mandate of Collective Management Organisations (CMOs); inclusion of a Private Copy Levy (PCL); expansion of provisions of Artists Resale Rights; and provision for piracy of copyright works.
In his remarks, Hon. Hillary Kiyaga noted that he had not sought leave of Parliament to move a Private Members Bill to Amend the Copyright Act for showbiz. He had done it as an artist that had suffered the pain of not earning from his sweat because of the gaps in the current Act. He noted that he was also doing it on behalf of thousands of hurting artists. He accepted to work with the Government so that an effective law can be put in place.
Song-writer and Musician Silver Kyagulanyi who also runs the Copyright Institute noted that there was a need to assign the role of copyright administration to an appropriate entity for effective enforcement to happen. NCF Vice Chairman Charles Batambuze noted that he was elated with the developments and that the Creative Industry would support the amendment proposals that propel it to generate more revenues and royalties.
At the prompting of the Leader of Opposition, the Ministry of Justice was to get back to Parliament with a roadmap for amendment. The Deputy Solicitor General pledged that the amendment should be done by January 2023.