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Why local artistes want copyright laws changed

Ugandan musicians in a meeting

Demand for exclusive and assignable legal right for musical works among Ugandan creatives is taking shape as artistes continue to demand for a strong law on copyright. In this explainer, Gabriel Buule explores claims by artistes that they are being shortchanged.

Do Ugandan music artistes get music royalties?

Yes, but they are paltry. On June 15, singer Angella Katatumba revealed on her social media platforms that the Uganda Performing Rights Society (UPRS) had wired Shs102,933 to her account. The music royalties, she added, covered the start of her music career to date.

“I started my Ugandan music career while in university in the UK and continued when in the US, while flying back and forth on holiday to date,” Ms Katatumba shared, adding that the “numerous hits” she has tucked under her belt must have guaranteed a bigger payday.

So who is to blame for the mess?

Ms Katatumba’s exasperation captures how the change in consumption of music over the past decades merits a reconsideration of how to interpret Uganda’s copyright law. Another school of thought led by singer Edrisa Musuuza, alias Eddy Kenzo, recommends a reconstruction of the copyright law. They further contend that the law needs to move with the times. Per Eddy Kenzo and others, Uganda’s intellectual property laws are not alive to the rise of streaming on platforms like Spotify and YouTube, as well as the changes around how music is made nowadays. This has ultimately whittled down the size of the music royalties.

Are Uganda’s intellectual property laws punitive enough?

Not as per Ragga Dee. The artiste-cum-politician does not mince his words while declaring that the laws prescribe light punishments for copyright offenders. He protests, “You cannot say when someone infringes on my song, we go to court and he is fined Shs1 million yet today you can spend more than Shs20 million on [putting together] just one song.”

So what needs to be tweaked?

READ FULL INTERVIEW HERE

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