For a long time, there has been a blame game between artists and the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) on the effective administration of the royalties in the country. Some artists feel Cosoma does not reward artists what they deserve. Two weeks ago, veteran musician Boniface Ndamera of the Lucky Stars Band, which created the hit-of-all-times Chinafuna M’bale, opened a can of worms that exposed loopholes in how royalties are administered to artists in the country. Our correspondent HOWARD MLOZI caught up with Cosoma executive director Dora Makwinja:
Q: Legendary musician Boniface Ndamera, the creator of Chinafuna M’bale hit claims he is poor today partly because he has not been receiving enough royalties from Cosoma. This is despite the song being a hit which has enjoyed massive airplay for about 35 years. How true is this?
A: Mr. Ndamera has been receiving royalties from Cosoma through the Arts Savings and Credit Cooperative (Sacco) where each member has an account through which they receive the royalties and evidence is there to show that he has also been withdrawing the money from the Sacco. He has actually been going to our offices in Blantyre with his wife to get the money. And this I have confirmed with our officer in Blantyre. I have the statement of the withdrawals that he has been making since the time we started paying through the Sacco.
Q: But are you in agreement that the highest annual amount he has ever received from Cosoma is K120 000 and this was in 2019?
A: It is not true that he only got royalties from us in 2019 amounting to K120 000. The amounts that he has withdrawn from the Sacco range between K89 000 to K225 000 per year. Of course as you may know, royalties is not something that you just share. There are a number of factors that determine how much one is entitled to receive.
Q: How does the distribution of royalties work?
A: Usage of the work. If the work is used more, it also receives more and if it is less it gets less money as well. Royalties are also determined by payments of users. If the users have not paid us, we may also not have the money to pay artists. We also use data usage of the works by users including broadcasters. Distribution like I have already stated, depends on usage of the work. And for us to distribute, we need information from the users on the works. So, if we do not get all the information, or we get insufficient data, it also poses a challenge for us to carry out a distribution. Thus we only carry out distribution when we have received all the information of the works played by the user in that year that a distribution is made.
Q: Artists have also questioned where the royalties of deceased artists go. What is your explanation on this?
A: On the management of deceased royalties, all the members complete beneficiary forms which informs us of their beneficiaries in case of death. Once a distribution is finalised, we pay the royalties accrued to the deceased member to their beneficiaries.
In the event that one dies before they have completed the beneficiary form, we contact their family and Cosoma disburse royalties to the beneficiaries as agreed by the family of the deceased member.
Q: How best can the issues of royalties be understood by both artists and the general public?
A: Kindly note that our office is always open to verify issues that need our input. I would appreciate it that going forward we should be engaging often with the media on such issues. This will facilitate understanding of issues to do with royalties by the general public