Music And Business Seminar Ends
With just about one week before the last open meeting aimed at finalising the Legislative Instrument, which will define how Ghana’s Copyright Act of 2005 is regulated, a recent seminar held in Accra showed that there’s a general lack of understanding about copyright. The open meeting of Attorney General staff and stakeholders from the creative industries takes place on April 29th at the International Conference Centre. At a seminar under the theme ‘Music and Business: Contrasting UK and Ghanaian Copyright And Music Industry Practice’ held at the Osu Ebenezer Presbyterian Church Hall on April 17, some attendees admitted they are baffled by the issues regarding copyright. One journalist confessed that although he had learnt much about copyright, he was “at the same time very confused.” “Because copyright was fairly regularly highlighted in the media, I took it for granted that those that attended the seminar had a basic understanding of copyright,” explained Kwaku, the founder of London-based Black Music Congress, who organised the seminar, and made a presentation along with Mr Bernard K Bosumprah, Ghana’s Copyright Administrator. “The main reason for organising the seminar was to look at areas of departure in relation to copyright and industry practice, and to highlight areas that can enhance the Ghanaian market,” continued Kwaku. “For example, the Ghanaian Copyright Act allows a mechanical royalty to be paid for the recording of music. In the UK, there are music publishers whose job is to exploit the use of their songs in order to earn revenues for themselves and their songwriters. However, I have not come across music publishing businesses in Ghana.” “What we have are ‘music publicists’ and not music publishers,” added the Copyright Administrator. In the UK and Ghana, copyright protection for musical and literary works last for the lifetime of the author(s) plus 70 years. When a work falls out of copyright, it is said to be in public domain. This means it can be used without permission or payment. However, one of the areas of significant departure revolves around public domain, and folklore – which is any work deemed to be part of the “cultural heritage of Ghana” but whose creators are unknown. Firstly, rights in folkloric works are vested in the President on behalf of the state of Ghana in perpetuity. Secondly, and the most contentious point, everyone who uses either folkloric or public domain works in Ghana must pay. “If there’s a possibility for us to make money, one area is folklore,” said Mr Bosumprah, giving one of the reasons why he supports payment for the use of folklore. Mr Bosumprah went on to explain that if you ‘create out of folklore’, it is a new creation of a copyright work, and so there is no need to pay. However, the Act is not so explicit on that point. Also, the 2005 Act introduced the liberalisation of collection societies. In the past, Copyright Society Of Ghana (COSGA) was the only organisation mandated to collect royalties for composers, authors, musicians, record producers and publishers. Although there are many collection societies in the UK– Performing Right Society (PRS), Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS), and Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) – collect royalties for specific usage. One wonders about the viability of multiple societies in a very small and under-developed market like Ghana. It might however be useful to have one body collect for public performance of the music and the record, thus combining the functions of PRS and PPL, and another collect for the reproduction of music, like MCPS. If there is any more, duplication of services it should be weighed against determinant yardsticks, such as increased efficiency in revenue collection. Also, as in UK, the Ghanaian collection societies must not be for profit, and focus on working towards the interests of its membership and not its board and executives. The seminar attendees included artists, such as reggae singer Shasha Marley, Mr John Mensah Sarpong, chairman of record companies trade body GAPI, Mr John Abraham Larkai, former executive director of the COSGA, record producers, lawyers, and media representatives. “Another reason for the seminar was to meet stakeholders and to explore the possibility of delivering music industry training here,” said Kwaku, who has lectured on music industry courses across a range of UK educational institutions. “It seems to me now that the priority must be to deliver programmes aimed at musicians and journalists, in order to increase their understanding of copyright.” “As I said at the seminar, without a robust copyright regime, we can not have an effective music industry. It is therefore important for musicians to understand how copyright impacts on their careers and income streams, and for journalists to report on the intricacies of copyright from a more informed position,” Kwaku added. The seminar was a good opportunity for the Copyright Administrator to throw light on some confusing provisions in the Copyright, Act, such as those sections governing folklore, security devices and collective administration. It is hoped that once the Legislative Instrument (LI) is passed, the new Copyright Act will be used to get users of music, such as broadcasters, nightclubs and hotels, to pay for the public performance of music and sound recordings, and also tackle the blatant sale of pirated recordings. This will go a long way in developing the music industry and remunerate Ghanaian songwriters, musicians, record producers, and hopefully emerging music publishers. The upside is a boost to the Ghanaian economy. Finally, whilst the production and packaging quality of many recent releases, such as Hiplife rapper Tinny’s ‘Ka Bu Ame’ and Reggae singer Shasha Marley’s ‘Lost & Found’, are on par with what is on the UK, Ghanaian music fails to make an impact in UK and Europe because of lack of proper marketing and poor distribution.
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