A Technical Working Group of experts is mulling over several issues that have been highlighted in a paper titled, “Review of the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, 2006: Issues paper” which was authored by the Uganda Law Reform Commission.
Several meetings drawing experts from Uganda Registration Services Bureau, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Uganda Communications Commission, First Parliamentary Counsel, Parliament, National Culture Forum, Copyright Institute, and Uganda Reproduction Rights Organisation have been held since October 2022. The Technical Working Group has up to 31st December 2022 to produce a draft Amendment Bill.
The introduction of a Private Copy Levy (PCL) within the Copyright Act is one of the key issues on the table for discussion. This issue has earlier dominated artists’ lobbying efforts and in 2020 attracted the President of Uganda who directed the Minister of Finance to study the PCL proposals. It is also captured in the Private Member’s Bill by Hon. Hillary Kiyaga, Member of Parliament for Mawokota North Constituency. The Technical Working Group is studying several best practices from other jurisdictions to understand how such a provision can be enforced to the benefit of the creative sector. When passed, this provision will expand royalty streams from gadgets being used to exploit works, available to artists and writers.
The Administration of Copyright in Uganda is also being discussed. Currently, Copyright administration is under Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB). The role of Registrar of Copyright is fused with that of the Registrar General. There are strong sentiments to separate this role by creating an independent agency to take care of Copyright industries on the one hand. On the other, new ideas are emerging on how best to strengthen the current structures under URSB for the administration of the Copyright Act.
It has been noted that Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) which include Uganda Performing Right Society, Uganda Reproduction Rights Organisation and Uganda Federation of Movie Industry need legislation to strengthen them. Currently, not every artist or writer is a member of a CMO which hampers their capacity to be more representative. The Technical Working Group is weighing different options to address this challenge by including provisions like legal presumption or collective extended mandate. The power of a CMO to license and give comfort to users of protected works is if they are representative of the biggest portion of rights holders in the country.
Other issues in the spotlight include exceptions and limitation of copyright especially for the blind and in the digital era; remedies for infringement; remedies for civil actions; infringement of neighbouring rights; criminal liability for copyright infringement and; the resale right by including a role for visual arts CMO. There are also discussions to grant the Registrar of Copyright quasi-judicial powers or a copyright tribunal to handle copyright related matters before they can be referred to the High Court.
It is expected that in the course of this process, public consultations will be undertaken to collect views from rights holders and users on the different issues under consideration.