Unless artists in the country fully realise their role in demanding their rights, they will continue to be entangled in a blame game with government and the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma).
These sentiments have been made by veteran musician and former regional chairperson of the Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM) Patrick Simakweli.
“It is high time artists know and demand their rights if they want to move government to take action. We should forget about making strides if we just sit and expect change,” he said.
Simakweli’s sentiments come at time Cosoma has attracted a fresh wrath of criticism from artists following the pirating of unreleased music of the late gospel songstress Grace Chinga.
“Yes government is to blame for the increased cases of piracy for its delay to enact policies such as the new Copyright Bill. But nothing can change if artists continue voice out their concerns as individuals or on the social media. They need to stand up and exert pressure,” he said.
Musician Lucius Banda said government needs to resolve the issue of the Culture Policy and the new Copyright Bill which are still gathering dust at Capital Hill.
For example, if passed and enforced, the new Copyright Bill stands to benefit arts creators in a number of areas such as the protection of their works as its exerts a maximum penalty K700 000 (about $1 014) to perpetrators of copyright-related infringements.
But resource-striken Cosoma says the fight against piracy in the country needs multi-sectoral approach to make strides.
Cosoma’s senior licensing officer Rosario Kamanga was reacting to artists’ accusations of ineffectiveness levelled against the society.
“It is an open secret that Cosoma operates under insufficient resources which cripple most of its operations including fight against piracy. Therefore, some of these accusations are unfounded. But Cosoma is doing what all it can but to enforce some of the laws without resources,” said Kamanga.
Cosoma’s Muti Mukhondia, in an article titled The Truth About Piracy, noted that a lack of government financial support towards Cosoma is the major cause of the body’s ineffectiveness on issues of protection.
In 1992, government created Cosoma as a copyright office with the supreme mandate to administer the Copyright Law, collective administration of private rights of creators and fight piracy.
However, Cosoma was dealt a big blow in 1997 when government stopped funding it, a development which makes it hard to effectively discharge its duties such as fighting piracy.
Asked what musicians were doing on their own to fight piracy, Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM) said they have mounted investigations in the alleged pirated works of Chinga including that of other musicians.
“In our 2016 strategy, we activated the anti-piracy unit which on the ground working to tame piracy in the country. And currently you may wish to know that investigations into the alleged pirated works of the late Chinga are underway. We are keeping no stone unturned as far as MUM and other stakeholders such as Cosoma are concerned,” said MUM president Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango, adding the Anti-piracy unit is chaired by musician Kendall Kamwendo.
In earlier interview, Cosoma’s executive director Dora Makwinja blamed piracy on attitude problem on issues of copyright.
She argued that law enforcers wait instructions from Cosoma to act on copyright infringement yet section 51 of the Copyright Act gives them the power to inspect copyright places or infringement.
“The only time the law enforcers take action is when Cosoma hires them for a particular raid or creator has asked them to help in pouncing some illegal sale of their works. Yet this is part of their job to enforcing Malawi laws which they need not to be reminded or hired by Cosoma,” Makwinja was quoted as saying.