Rwanda – Rwandese musician Mani Martin is demanding that government support the implementation of Intellectual Property (IP) law and royalty collection in the country.
The ‘Mapenzi’ singer stirred up a debate about copyright infringement on Twitter claiming students at a local music school were allegedly paid by the Ministry of Sports and Culture (MINISPOC) to perform his ‘Afro’ song at the East African Community Arts and Culture Festival (Jamafest) in Dar es Salaam last month.
The tweet in question features a video of students performing his song and is captioned: “When will I (the Rwandan artist) benefit from my work if MINISPOC is hiring the Nyundo School of Music at events and festivals #Jamafest to perform my music while I am here, alive and available?” Martin wrote. “Isn’t this even the abuse of intellectual property?”
Resonding to Martin’s tweet, MINISPOC spokesperson Olivier Karambizi said the singer’s claims on IP theft were unfounded.
“Jamafest is a State-funded festival whose activities are part of public ceremonies,” Karambizi said. “Performances by these kids from Nyundo School of Music were held on a non-commercial base. Unless you prove me, wrong, I stand to be corrected.”
Speaking to Music In Africa, Martin said: “I raised the issue, and everybody interpreted it the way they wanted. This was good because at least it started a debate that we have never had before in Rwanda, which is the fair and unfair use of artistic works. I wanted the government institutions in charge to put more effort into facilitating the Rwandan Society of Authors to be able to collect artists’ royalties from any use.
“The ministry of sports and culture often hires singers to sing an artist’s song at the level of sending them in a festival like Jamafest,” he said. “My problem is not someone singing my song; my question is why should you bypass the artists and choose someone else yet the artists are expecting to make a living out of the performances of their music.”
Copyright infringement is becoming Rwanda’s biggest problem and Martin is the latest musician to raise the issue of IP theft online. Last year, Senderi International Hit took to Instagram and raised concerns about IP theft. So far, Martin has written a letter to the Federation of Rwandan Artists (FRA) to follow up on the matter.
Last year, a new law on IP was published in the official gazette No.39 of September 24, 2018 under article 262 of the Rwandan penal code. The new IP law proposes among other things that institutions should either pay artists 50 000 FRw ($56) whenever they play their music at public events or else opt for an annual fee of one million Rwandan francs ($1,127).
“The rates were introduced, but the implementation is what has never happened,” Martin said.