Copyright Law Amendment Provides Little Benefit to Ugandan Musicians, Warns UCC

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The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has disclosed that despite potential amendments to the copyright law, most prominent musicians in Uganda will not reap the commercial benefits of their music due to their lack of ownership over the songs they perform. The revelation was made by Waiswa Abudu Sallam, the Head of Legal Affairs and Compliances at UCC, via a statement on social media.

According to Sallam, many musicians sell their copyrights to record companies and promoters, as their primary focus is singing and performing rather than song ownership. Artists often operate under record labels that handle various aspects of their careers, including creating facilities, writing songs, and selecting performers.

“One of the biggest challenges is that some of the musicians we interact with do not own the songs they sing. While they perform the songs, they are not the copyright owners. When negotiating payments, it is not the artists seen on TV who are paid, but rather the individuals who own the rights,” explained Sallam.

In response to this issue, the Uganda National Musician Federation, representing Ugandan musicians, recently petitioned parliament to amend the Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act of 2006. The initiative aims to revise charges for caller tunes and establish stricter measures against broadcasters using pirated content, which undermines artists’ intellectual property rights.

Led by Edrisa Musuuza commonly known as Eddy Kenzo, the federation presented the petition on October 4, 2023. During the parliament session, Phiona Nyamutoro, the Female Youth Representative, formally presented the musicians’ concerns.

The petitioners strongly advocate for fair compensation and recommend a minimum fine of UGX 5 million to be imposed on anyone convicted of infringing upon an artist’s copyright.

As the discourse surrounding copyright law in Uganda intensifies, it remains to be seen how lawmakers will respond to the musicians’ plea for change, actively considering the long-term implications for the music industry and the rights of Ugandan artists.

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