Musicians have described the Soft Copy Licence issued by the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) to companies, including music vendors to share music and videos as a licence to kill.
Currently, electronic files of music are shared in different ways, including downloads from servers such as online music stores, memory sticks and via social media applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
A recent snap survey across the country’s cities and markets indicates that music vendors load music in memory sticks which are then sold to customers.
Some music vendors are issued Soft Copy Licence by Cosoma pegged at K50 000 annually. However, musicians have decried the licence fee as extremely low considering the high cost of music production and marketing in the country.
Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM) Southern Region chapter chairperson Papa Mtume blamed some of the union’s representatives who accepted the request without understanding the concept of soft copy transfer.
“We are usually represented by some members who hardly understand the trends in the music industry. As a result, they are taken advantage of when decisions are being made. You will be shocked to learn that our union is represented by similar members at Cosoma meetings,” said Mtume.
He argued that the country’s music industry is driven by a fresh generation of musicians whose voices and interests are hardly represented during Cosoma meetings.
“The members that attend Cosoma meetings these days don’t have the welfare of the new generation of artists who are controlling the industry. But it’s high time their voices are put into consideration at such high level meetings because they are the ones who are generating revenue for the society,” challenged Mtume.
He described the Soft Copy Licence as a new phenomenon which requires the country’s musicians to understand it fully before it is implemented.
Cosoma has defended the annual licence fee, arguing it was arrived at after conducting a thorough market survey to determine the royalty payable.
“We looked at what is being charged per transfer of each song, average sales per month and the total payable at 10 percent of the ordinary retail selling price as prescribed by the law,” said Cosoma senior licensing officer Rosario Kamanga.
Mtume, however, argued that some vendors, who operate burning centres, make more money since their system is hardly tracked by Cosoma.
Asked how effective the system is in tracking the sharing of music files by players, Kamanga indicated that mobile service providers like TNM and Airtel were obliged to provide them with electronic reports to track music downloads.
He said: “The same obligation is extended to those issued with licences to load music. For sharing of music files on peer to peer level there is a level levy that has been provided in the current copyright law to compensate for loss of income to creators (musicians, composers, authors) which is carried out for free. The funds collected will be put in the copyright fund. Part of the proceeds will be distributed whereas the rest will be given out as grants for cultural promotion activities.”
Musician Lloyd Phiri is not amused with the poor enforcement of the copyright laws in the country.
“Copyright laws should bite hard to reduce rampant infringement of artworks,” said Phiri. n