Inside the new Copyright Act

Parliament last week passed the long-awaited Copyright Act to fulfil its mandate and commitment to promoting copyright issues such as works of artists in the country.

In reaction, minister of Sports and Culture Grace Chiumia said government is moving in a new direction as far as the promotion and protection of copyright works is concerned.

Makwinja: Copyright is still considered as a new concept
Makwinja: Copyright is still considered as a new concept

The new bill provides enhanced legislation relating to copyright in literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, audio-visual works, sound recordings and broadcasts, to ensure that the legislation is adapted to the digital environment and complies with international conventions.

According to Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) senior licensing officer Rosario Kamanga, this means that, unless there is a contrary provision in the Act, creators are provided with full economic rights with exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, display and communicate their work to the public.

He said copied works will enjoy copyright protection as though they were original works and these include translations, adaptations of original works, collections of works in the form of encyclopaedias and anthologies which constitute intellectual collections and works inspired by expressions of folklore.

The Act also provides that written laws and decisions of courts and reports of commissions appointed by the Government shall not be subject to copyright protection.

The Act contains other provisions dealing with licences which allow a broadcasting organisation that is authorised by agreement with the Cosoma to broadcast literary, musical or artistic works to also broadcast works of authors whom the society does not represent provided conditions set out in the clause are satisfied.

The Act also provides that the functions of Cosoma, which include the promotion and protection of the interests of authors, performers, translators, producers of sound recordings, broadcasters, publishers and in particular the collection and distribution of any royalties and other remunerations accruing to them.

However, for a long time, artists, musicians in particular, have accused Cosoma of inefficiency as far as the fight against piracy is concerned.

But the copyright body’s executive director Dora Makwinja attributed to problem to archaic laws and poor perception on copyright issues.

“The issue of copyright in this country is still considered as a new concept, a development which has been undermining it full operation such as promotion of economic rights of creators and protection of infringement. But with the new law we will be able seal some of the gaps. For example, the honeymoon for pirates is over because they will be fined K10 Million or serve a four-year jail term if found guilty,” she said.

Apart from enforcing protecting the intellectual property, the Copyright Act will enforce laws in some of the areas such as reprography which generate revenue for the society and royalties for creators.

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