In Uganda, the law on copyright is epitomized in the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2006. The act seeks to provide the protection of literary, scientific, and artistic intellectual works and their neighbouring rights, and to provide for other related matters.
It was passed primarily because of two major factors. First, the fact that the Copyright Act 1953 had not been revised to cope with developments in commerce. As such, the law was an impediment and not a facilitator of economic reform. It was thus necessary to enact a law that would be relevant to 21st-century demands. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly because it was the driving factor, Uganda was facing international pressure to reform its intellectual property regime. On 1 January 1995, Uganda became a member of the WTO.
Article XVI.4 of the Agreement establishing the World Trade Organization stipulates that each Member State shall ensure that its laws and regulations are compliant with the Agreement. As such, Uganda had to reform its domestic legislation so as to harmonize it with WTO standards. Today, artistes are seeking the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2006 amendment.
Why Artistes need the Amendment.
To further suit the best demands for this day and age – artistes say that the current Copyright and Neighbouring Act does not grant due benefits to originators of works, a trend they wish to cure in the new Bill.
According to Hillary Kiyaga, popularly known as Dr. Hilderman, an artiste and Mawokota North Constituency legislator – some aspects of this act have become outdated, necessitating an amendment.
“In light of advances in technology and emerging practices, there is an increase in the nature of copyright works that can be protected and infringed on.” he said.
Artistes Walking the Talk
In a bid to introduce a bill titled – The Copyright and Neighbouring Rights (Amendment) Bill, Hon. Hillary Kiyaga was granted leave of Parliament.
The private members bill seeks to recognize and protect the rights of a composer of literaly, artistic, scientific and intellectual works cognizant that the law as it is, assigns such rights to producers.
The Act does not grant due benefits to originators of works, a trend that the new Bill cures wrist proposing penalties and sanctions on Infringement on copyright works – a task proved tedious and unattainable for most authors.
National Culture Forum, an apex body for all associations and Federations operating in the Arts, Culture and Creative Sector drafted a petition in the same Ammendment regard also tackling sharing Revenues arising out of Call Ring Back Tones (CRBTs) and mooting for a Private Copy Levy (PCL) on equipment, devices or media used in Reproduction of copyright protected works like music, Film and Books.
From the CRBTs revenue, artistes receive a mere 1.8% which they say is exploitative – with their works exploited via gadgets without remuneration.
Authorities take Charge
In a meeting to harmonize a Private Members Bill to amend the Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act, 2006 with that of the Government. 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 the 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 agreed 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. National Culture Forum 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.
The way forward
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.
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 hand, 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.