The Ethiopian Music Copyright & Neighbouring Rights Collective Management Organisation in discussion with broadcasters.

Copyright holders of artistic works have received a positive nod from authorities to begin collecting royalty payments from TV and radio stations beginning September 2021.

It will be a landmark development for those in the music and entertainment industry whose creative works are used by the broadcast media without sharing the benefit.

The Ethiopian Music Copyright & Neighbouring Rights Collective Management Organisation (EMCCMO) was formed in December 2019 to collect royalty payments on copyright holders' behalf. Its leaders reached an agreement with broadcasters for a blanket payment scheme. Officials from the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) brought the parties together.

The Organisation has prepared blanket and temporary permits. The former serves for a year where broadcasters can use creative work without limit after a one-time fee is paid. Broadcasters are also expected to set up a software system that registers a list of songs played. Temporary permits remain valid for a defined period and are granted upon request. Public events and concerts where organisers are expected to provide playlists are included in this category. Royalty managers use the playlists to determine fees.

The Organisation calculated fees based on regular time and primetime rates. The primetime rate is set for holidays when broadcasters typically have a high audience.

More rating mechanisms will be introduced in the future, disclosed Hailemichael Getnet, a.k.a. Haile Roots, a musician and member of the Organisation.

"It wouldn't be wise to introduce all the systems all at once," he told Fortune. "We'll introduce new ones as we go."

The management has developed a formula to distribute collected royalties where lyricists, singers, melody writers, arrangers, and song producers get 20pc of the revenues generated. Total earnings from royalty fees are subjected to up to five percent tax. Artists who have been members of the Ethiopian Musicians Association since 1954 register their works with the management, and newer artists who would like to be included in the royalty system will also have to do the same.

Hunduma Abera, marketing and sales director at Asham TV, appreciated the demand by the creative industry. But he wants to see them raise awareness on royalty fees and set up a uniform working procedure, including clarifying how the fee has been calculated.

"It would paralyse businesses if the prices are exaggerated," said Hunduma.

The Ethiopian Broadcasters Association, which has been dealing with royalty issues on behalf of its 14 members, is conducting internal discussions and will continue talks with the management society, according to Endashaw W. Michael, manager of the Association.

"In principle, we have no objection to the payment," he said.

The next phase in the implementation of royalty payments is to work with businesses such as bars, clubs and hotels. These businesses will be provided with a device that will monitor songs played, according to Hailemichael. To facilitate and enforce payment, the Organisation is looking to establish offices in major cities across the country with support from the Ministry of Culture & Tourism, he disclosed.

Officials at the Intellectual Property Office have requested leaders of the Organisation to present a distribution plan, according to Nassir Nuru, director for copyright and community knowledge protection and development at the Office.

"Broadcasters have shown willingness to pay royalty fees," said Nassir. "I don't expect anything to go wrong."

The distribution of payments among copyright holders needs special attention since it could be an issue later, Nassir cautioned.

The law on copyright protection issued in 2004 has omitted to establish how right holders could collect royalties to use their creative works. A decade later, legislators amended the law, allowing the establishment of collective management societies to prepare royalty schemes, collect royalties from users and distribute them to their respective owners.

In neighbouring Kenya, royalty payments were enforced decades back. Kenyan musicians were paid an equal amount of a little more than 2,500 shillings annually. After the musicians voiced their complaints, the Kenyan government implemented a national registry system that would allow musicians to be paid based on the number of songs played.

The expansion of digital platforms has transformed the collections of royalties for creative works at a global level. The total payments of royalties reached 381 billion dollars in 2018, including all types of royalty payments for creative works such as books, music, visual art and videos, according to OPUS, a music sharing service provider based in the UK.

Experts see the efforts to collect royalty payments through collective management societies as commendable though they recognise that there remains a lot of work to be done.

According to Bereket Alemayehu, lecturer at the law department of Addis Abeba University, the establishment of such societies would not forestall all infringement of copyrights.

PUBLISHED ON Jul 03,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1105]

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