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‘MUSIGAM is disappointed that Copyright is referred to as an Impediment to Business’

Mar 10, 2017, 10:51 AM | Article By: Njie Baldeh

The Gambia Music Union is disappointed that copyright is increasingly being referred to as an impediment to business and growth and we believe that the focus must be brought back to how performers’ rights protect musicians and artists, who would be unable to maintain a career without them,” according to Kalilu Banja, program director of Gambia Music Union.

He stressed that the Music Union therefore lobbies Government to protect these rights on the basis that only a small number of Gambian artists have regular salaries.

The Copyright Act 2004 mandates the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) to administer the aspect of copyright in The Gambia. The Act gives the Copyright Office under the NCAC the responsibility to ensure and administer (a) the registration of intellectual property works such as films, books, and music products; (b) to fight piracy and (c) to sensitize the public on copyright issues.

The Act also provides for the creation of an autonomous body or corporate institution called the Gambia Collecting Society, which will collect royalties for artists whose works are used by radio stations, clubs, taxis, hotels, forums, etc.

This body should be set up and run by the artists themselves and the NCAC has no role in it except that it occupies a seat on the 9-member board. Yet, the NCAC is actively supporting artists, such as writers, drama and theatre groups, to come together in associations so that the Gambia Collecting Society can start operations.

Banja said it’s important to note that, Musicians Union of The Gambia for the past 10 years and so has been advocating bringing artists together for them to stand up as one and defend their interests and rights.

“Through the support of NCAC, MUSIGAM serves its role to mobilize and promote unity in diversity amongst musicians but it proves very difficult for us because many people consider it doesn’t worth it to join the Union,” he said.

According to him, they encounter adversaries from promoters, producers, Djs and event organizers who knew very well the role of the Union more than our artists so to speak, were never supportive (conflict of interest).

“Musicians rely on live revenue to survive. Income from CD sales is decreasing and illegal downloading continues, making a sustainable career difficult without fair pay for live performances,” he said.

He added that most are Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), whether they are sole traders or members of a band, and they therefore rely on their copyright and performers’ rights to make a significant part of their income.

He explained that in essence, their copyright and related rights are an important part of their ‘product’ and of the diverse income streams that make up their income, and, like any SME, they have to protect their product.

“Aware of the fact is a lucrative business worldwide, Gambia Government and private sector should start to invest in the creative economy which includes the music industry,” he said.

Artists’ employment status and relationships needs to consider by the labor laws as catered in the international conventions, i.e. the ILO standards. Most people don’t seems to understand what the hell an artist has to go through, with regards to the various processes to get their music right ranging from composing, arranging, songwriting, recording, rehearsing with bands, management and promotion efforts.

These processes can makes the novice brain hurts as they requires investing time, energy, resources and manpower to have it professionally achieved.

Been the case, the rate of pay for artists performances is quite different from other nature of works to pay as defined by the labour laws. Artistic and media works aren’t subjected to monthly payment (as in monthly salary expect for those employed by an entity).

The performances of artistes are mostly contractual and clearly fluctuate variedly with time and circumstances. Again, artistic payments are calculated factoring social protection principles, intellectual property rights, performance rights and related rights as well.

When these rights are sufficiently addressed, artistic works and payments can empower artists considering social security benefits, pension schemes, health insurance and safety at work measures.

Many people and the artists lack these skills but, departments responsible for the development of the arts and culture sector of The Gambia, must fulfill their roles to support, empower, develop and satisfy the needs of the creative sector.

Precisely, artistes live rates are based on an hourly rate which a self-employed musician needs to charge in order to earn an income, relative to their training, experience and expertise. Individual negotiations can be made based on these minimum rates. If you’re self-employed, you do not have a contract of employment with an employer.

You’re more likely to be contracted to provide services over a certain period of time for a fee and be in business in your own right. You’ll also pay your own tax and National Insurance Contributions. You don’t have employment rights as such if you’re self-employed as you are your own boss and can therefore decide how much to charge for your work and how much holiday to give yourself.

You do have some legal protection. You must not be discriminated against and you’re entitled to a safe and healthy working environment on your client’s premises.