Uganda’s vibrant music industry, represented by the Ugandan National Musicians Federation (UNMF), has taken a significant step forward by submitting a formal petition to Parliament. In this petition, they call for essential amendments to the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act of 2006.
During a recent plenary session, Phiona Nyamutoro, the National Female Youth Representative, eloquently articulated the musicians’ stance. She emphasized that the current 17-year-old law has become outdated, failing to keep pace with technological advancements and evolving international standards.
A primary concern voiced by the musicians revolves around the inequitable distribution of revenues generated from caller-back tunes. They assert that this practice disproportionately benefits telecom companies at the expense of the artists who create the content.
The petition explicitly states, “Your petitioners, who are contributors to the creative industry, assert that the current legal framework for revenue distribution from caller-back tunes unfairly disadvantages artists. Most of the revenue ends up benefiting telecom companies instead of the artists who should rightfully profit from their creations.”
In their effort to foster growth within the creative industry, the musicians have garnered support from over 100 members. They propose a comprehensive amendment to the existing law, with a particular focus on revising the revenue distribution mechanism for caller-back tunes.
Their proposal includes a more equitable split, with 60% of revenue allocated to the artists, while the remaining 40% would be shared between the government and telecom companies.
Furthermore, the petitioners advocate for new amendments that would impose stringent measures against broadcasters that utilize pirated content. They also call for the implementation of a copy levy on devices used for reproducing copyright-protected works, with the proceeds to be equally distributed between the government and copyright holders.
In a bid to enhance regulation within the industry, the musicians have requested oversight of telecom aggregators involved in the distribution of copyrighted content. Notably, they are urging for an affirmative action amendment mandating broadcasters to allocate a minimum of 90% of airtime to Ugandan music to promote local content.
In a related development, Member of Parliament for Mawokota County North, Dr. Hilderman, was granted leave to introduce a Copyright and Neighbouring Rights (Amendment) Bill last year. However, the bill has not progressed to the First Reading stage, raising hopes that the current petition will invigorate these vital discussions.