Saturday May 31 2014

The creative industry needs copyright policy

By Editorial

Though coming late, government’s move to create a national policy to spread awareness on Intellectual Property Rights is crucial. This policy will make Ugandans widely aware of works eligible for copyright and the protection of those literary, scientific and artistic works.

Although the required enabling law, the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2006, has been in force to bar and punish unauthorised use of Intellectual Property Rights through breaches, including piracy, and counterfeit, it has not been popularised.

As Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) Registrar General Mr Bemanaya Twebaze says, the biggest problem is enforcement of the existing laws. Clearly, the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, 2006 bars and punishes piracy and counterfeits.

These sections, when enforced, would be good enough although a comprehensive national policy to popularise the issues is crucial. That is why the indication last week by Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Mr Kahinda Otafiire that the issue is before the Cabinet, is welcome.

Although no specific time frame has yet been set to have the policy in place, right away, Mr Otafiire should impress it on Cabinet to quickly debate and ready the policy because the country needs it now for several reasons.

As URSB registrar general Mr Twebaze says, a comprehensive national policy to popularise the Intellectual Property Rights is crucial. First, the policy will supplement the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2006, as it will raise awareness; create a broad buy-in and ownership among stakeholders, including local film and music distributors, artistes, movie actors and actresses. Second, the policy will strengthen the legal provisions, enforcement and compliance mechanisms.

Third, the policy will increase productivity and competitiveness of Uganda’s literary, scientific and artistic industries and help them shift from the informal to the formal sector. Currently, Uganda is losing out on all the three fronts because the law is hardly being enforced. Moreover, creators of literary, scientific and artistic works, as well as the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), are not deriving significant profits from the works.

What is worse, there are no comprehensive studies done to show impact of piracy on the creative arts, and as such there are no estimates of losses in money terms incurred. And yet Uganda’s film and music video industries are fast growing.

For instance, Uganda has 80 film production companies that have been registered and have produced 426 films since 2006. Therefore; government should pass this policy, find the money this financial year to fund the Intellectual Property Rights enforcement unit and the 30 inspectors at URSB to crack down on breaches of Intellectual Property Rights.