Monday 28 July 2008


"Global Copyright Act Law": the case of Malawi

Kandani Ngwira ("Music artists or music parasites"), writing earlier this month in Malawi's The Daily Times, describes how Joseph Tembo’s song ‘Mbuje’ received wide media condemnation because it was 'carbon-copied' from a foreign composition, the Botswana song 'Mbupuje'. COSOMA -- the Copyright Society of Malawi -- banned the song from radio stations, but it was still being played in bars and in private listening. Comments Ngwira, citing other instances of this 'borrowing':

"It would appear artists in the country are adamant and have become lazy and copy songs in its entirety. ...

Perhaps, the great irony in this trend is that these musicians complain when people pirate their music yet they themselves are found to be at the forefront of stealing other people’s property.

In fact some artists have even gone ahead to win music awards with such parasitic music. ...".
He also quotes the opinion of Joy Radio DJ, Ken Klips, who probably reflects quite closely the legal perspective of performers in his country:
"[T]o copy another person’s song per se is not a crime because there are big time stars who do that at the international stage.

... what constitutes a crime is to copy without following procedures like making an agreement with the original musician or at least representatives of the musician.

“Our musicians do not consider contacting the owners of the original songs and I think it is just sheer laziness on the part our artists. They have intellectually retired from being creative so that they have resorted to parasitic tendencies. They just want to become famous over what others have already done which is very bad”.
Klips also calls for stiffer discipline from COSOMA and the Musicians Association of Malawi (Mam). He opines: "“Mam should discipline their members and studio producers should stop tolerating such duplicated music. Radio stations too should stop playing songs by local artists if they are sure that the piece has been illegally copied from other artists, although sometimes it is difficult to notice that the song is duplicated". COSOMA denies being soft on its members and says that the law is enforced when an infringement clearly occurs. Its Licensing Officer adds that there is a process that must be followed if artists want to copy foreign beats and that Cosoma facilitates the process using "Global Copyright Act Law". I have been unable to track this law down. Can any readers help?



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