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Musicians grill Cosoma

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Musicians on Friday left no stone unturned as they hit at Copyright Society of Malawi ( Cosoma) as to why it rushes to implement projects without consulting the rights holders with one of it being the issuing of soft copy licences( flash disks) which they said is not assisting them in the fight against piracy.

The musicians have since demanded that Cosoma stops the issuance of the soft copy licences with immediate effect until the issue is discussed thoroughly during an Annual General Meeting coming up in August.

The artists agreed this during a heated meeting in Lilongwe on Friday which was presided over by Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture Kondwani Nankhumwa.

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The meeting followed musicians’ recent decision to march to Parliament over different challenges they are facing including piracy which they say is robbing them of income.

Musicians Union of Malawi President Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango described the meeting which started in the morning through to the evening as fruitful saying the artists voiced out their concerns without fear.

“The government through the minister engaged us and we are thankful for offering us this platform. We raised several issues including the soft copy licences which we have since asked Cosoma to stop issuing with immediate effect until proper consultations have been made during the AGM,” said Mhango.

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He said they were optimistic that things will change following the meet ing and that the government will assist them without which they will mobilise themselves and march.  “Sometimes it is good to discuss first because you only march when all the other means have been exhausted. So the minister assured us he will help us including on the establishment of the National Arts and Heritage Council whose bill has already been drafted and will thus be tabled in the next sitting of Parliament,” said Mhango.

Veteran gospel musician Wycliffe Chimwendo who was part of the gathering said the meeting was tense but said it went on well as they discussed pertinent issues with high on it being Cosoma which he said lacks transparency and does not consult citing the issue of sofy copy licences.

He further said musicians questioned Cosoma on how they determined the amounts for the royalties during the previous Annual General Meeting held in Lilongwe.

Chimwendo also said the other issue that took centre stage at the meeting was the 30 percent deductions on the collections Cosoma makes as administrative cost.

“We have for 11 years now pleaded with Cosoma to reduce the 30 percent considering that from the same, government is taking withholding tax but nothing has changed. The Act stipulates that they can deduct from one to 30 percent as the maximum and they can move within the range of 10 to 15,” explained the veteran musician.

He added that they asked Cosoma to consider this issue seriously as now musicians have no proper market for their music and that the revenue base has gone down with piracy affecting the sales.

Nankhumwa described the meeting as cordial and that it was an open forum which saw them tackling all the issues one by one revealing that the meeting started at 11am and ended at 6pm.

“All the issues which were raised were pertinent and musicians think Cosoma is milking them as regards the royalties. We tackled the issue of flash disks which they agreed it needs to stop for now, venues, review of Copyright Act, delays in payment of royalties, Cosoma subvention and roles of the department of culture,” said the minister adding that, the artists also want to meet the President.

The minister also said that on the issue of venues, the government has in the current budget put aside K50 million for the rehabilitation of the Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC) which is still in pathetic state.

He said he will try within his means to make sure that they tackled the creative industries challenges as well as speak with the Minister of Finance on Cosoma’s subvention.

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