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Cosoma responds to musicians’ petition

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The Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) has responded to the petition presented last month by musicians, through their body Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum).
Musicians last month marched to Cosoma offices in Lilongwe, where they presented a petition to Cosoma Executive Director Dora Makwinja.
In the petition, musicians indicated that they were engulfed in a myriad problems, ranging from piracy to lack of transparency in the way royalties, performance and mechanical rights are paid to musicians.
The petition came barely a month after gospel singer, Princess Chitsulo, cried foul, describing Cosoma as an organisation that was there to reap them off.
This was after she received less money than she expected from Airtel ringtones.
The copyright body was given 15 days to respond to the petition.
In response to the petition, in letter dated January 10 2018, Cosoma has tackled all the concerns presented in the petition, including distribution of royalties, licensing practices, artists’ welfare and lack of government subvention.
The response, made by Makwinja, says that the society undertakes to take corrective measures where gaps in performance are evident and it proposes collaborative action in instances where other institutions have roles to play.
It further says that the responses on the issues raised in the petition were reviewed and endorsed by Cosoma board of directors.
The response also says that the board mandated the secretariat to invite Mum taskforce to a meeting as soon as possible to discuss the way forward on issues which propose collaboration between Mum and Cosoma.
Meanwhile, Mum President, Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango, has said that the taskforce was meeting yesterday to review the responses.
On royalties, Cosoma explained that it administers a number of economic rights on behalf of members who have mandated it, as granted to them under Section 29 of the Copyright Act, 2016.
Some of them include broadcasting, public performance, mechanical rights, and communication to the public and reprographic rights for the exploitation of literary and artistic works (image and text).
“The administration involves the setting up of tariffs (how much the user pays for use of the work) and the collection of license fees from users (broadcasters, hotels, schools and telecom companies) – later distributed as royalties,” Cosoma says in the letter.
The copyright body points out that there is no one fixed rate for each song played by a broadcaster and that the amount of royalties paid is in the form of a lump sum, adding that it covers the use of all songs, including songs from outside the country and non-members.
Cosoma says the amount to be paid by a broadcasting station is dependent on a number of factors, notable ones being type of the broadcasting station, coverage and music content in the programming.
On distribution, Cosoma says the process itself is governed by distribution rules which were adopted by the General Assembly.
According to the said rules, a fixed share is allocated to a song which is further distributed to the rights holder (owner of rights) for the role that one has played in the production of a song. In this case, the other players can be a composer, an arranger, publisher, among others.
This means that one only gets the full 100 percent if she or he has performed all the roles.
Cosoma says royalties distributed are disbursed in different ways, including Cheques and bank transfers.
However, the copyright body has acknowledged challenges faced in the area of disbursement and has since engaged the Arts Sacco, Airtel and TNM to use their platforms for disbursement of royalties.
Cosoma further clarified that cheques that remain uncollected are kept by Cosoma until the owners are traced.
The copyright body has since indicated that it views the petition positively as a first step in the dialogue, which will lead to stakeholders finding a last solution to challenges.

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