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In the files of Cosoma….integrated Arts Development takes shape

A report by the outgoing chairperson of the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma), Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango presented during the copyright body’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Wednesday highlighted several issues including the Integrated Arts Development Project that seeks to grow the creative industry.

The report covering the period July 2014 to June, 2015 revealed that in an effort aimed at solving the many challenges facing artists in the country, the society in conjunction with the Film Association of Malawi (Fama) and the Malawi National Commission for Unesco developed a concept paper for the Integrated Arts Development Project which has now started making positive steps.

According to Mhango, the project seeks to address some of the challenges especially those that relate to access to finance, skills and knowledge gap as well as production and distribution of artistic products. The report indicates that the government has allocated K150 million for the project in the 2015/16 budget.

“The whole project which requires K500 million in total has four sub projects namely a Savings and Credit Cooperative for creators of content, Production and Marketing Cooperative, a School for the Arts and Cultural Heritage and establishment of the National Arts and Heritage Council,” said Mhango.

He said the government has already started putting resources for the implementation of the project adding that so far K41 million has already been made available to Cosoma for the project.

Cosoma’s Senior Licensing Officer Rosario Kamanga said the Integrated Arts Development Project will help brighten the creative industry which has been moving in the dark. “There is a lot that needs to be done but with this project, things are moving in the right direction. I have been in the creative industry for so many years and with this project so many things will change.

We want the artists to benefit from the industry as for now there is little and again through this project we want to create markets for the artists to be selling their project as at the moment the marketing and distribution system collapsed,” said Kamanga. Mhango said this is a project which if successfully implemented, will transform not only the music industry but the whole creative sector.

With Cosoma facing the wraths of artists with many saying it is failing in its duties including piracy, musician Mafumu Matiki, who is the outgoing board member, said the copyright body is not to blame for many of the challenges facing the creative industry but rather the other sectors are not playing their part.

Mhango among others in the report highlighted that the society still remains understaffed albeit increasing workload and that to end this; the society has been engaging temporary workers further revealing that there are plans to engage the services of a documentation personnel in both Blantyre and Mzuzu offices.

In the report, Mhango has also highlighted the issue of collection of log sheets from broadcasting stations by Cosoma, which is currently being done manually. It says that in its endeavour to improve efficiency in the distribution of broadcasting royalties, the society embarked on a project of developing software for producing electronic log sheets by broadcasting stations.

“The software was called WIPOCOS Log sheet entry tool and it was designed with assistance from WIPO consultant. The tool did not prove to be a success and through users’ comments and further research, it was discovered that a media player should be identified that would be capable of logging music airplays and produce reports automatically,” said Mhango.

With this move failing to materialise, Cosoma according to Mhango is now in communication with Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) with a view of finding possibilities of using their monitoring facility to track musical works played on various radio and television stations in the country.

Mhango in his report also highlighted that Cosoma is facing challenges of resistance by users to furnish usage data and that users fail to comply with the requirement of submitting returns which aid distribution of royalty collections.

This move he said is affecting the ability of the society to carry out timely distributions. In the report, Mhango, who is also Musicians Union of Malawi (Mum) president, also touched on the privatisation of Cosoma which was discussed by the cabinet early this year.

The cabinet however, recommended that the matter be re-tabled after establishment of the Malawi Intellectual Property office. With piracy now rampant, Mhango said the period under review, the society devoted its energy towards restoring the production and distribution system of the music products which he said had virtually collapsed.

He said the society in collaboration with rights holder associations with funding from the government through the Production and Marketing Cooperative, will set up production and distribution facilities which are planned to be operational by January 2016.

Mhango said the establishment of the facility is expected to reduce piracy by providing consistent supply of qualitative music products on the market.

“To strengthen the inspection section of Cosoma, the secretariat planned to have the police seconded to its offices, the society is therefore pleased to report that police officers in the company of other officers from Cosoma were sent to Kenya to study

the system,” he said. The out-going Cosoma chairperson said that the body carried out 96 raids focusing mainly on users that were involved in soft copy data transfer and that each distributor whose equipment was confiscated was required to pay K20,000.

According to him, they collected K1.9 million in the operation. On public performance, the society collected a total of K24.1 million. In the report, Mhango also revealed that on the mechanical right remuneration ringtones and music downloads, the society has concluded its licensing agreement with both Airtel for online music downloads and ringtones and www.

He said the former has made available usage data spanning four years and has since been invoiced and that an upfront payment of K1 million was also made.

In the reprography section, the copyright body managed to collect K18 million against a budget of K32 million adding that the collections in the reprography have significantly improved from K6 million in 2013/2014 to K18 million in 2014/2015 period.

“This is because the society started licensing public and private secondary schools in the country in addition to copy shops, universities and colleges. The challenge in this case has been that each school has had to be licensed individually which has proven to be costly administratively,” he said.

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