Thursday, 9 January 2014

IP policies in Africa - no. 12 Democratic Republic of the Congo

Happy new year to Afro-IP readers! This Leo's IP policies in Africa series is back with a visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC is famous for its music and two of its most well-known musicians have served in the Ministry of Culture. Kanda Bongo Man, a kwasa kwasa musician, served as Deputy Minister of Culture for a short stint in 1997 when Laurent Kabila was President (see an interview with the singer here). Tabu Ley Rochereau, a rumba musician, also served as a Minister in Laurent Kabila's government and later became a provincial Minister of Culture (see wikipedia profile here). What's really interesting about this is that the country's copyright office falls directly under the national Ministry of Culture (see National IP offices' contact details here).

Does having active musicians as the ministers responsible for copyright result in copyright laws that are more creator/artist/musician-friendly? The answer to that question is the topic of another blogpost. But a quick look at the country's copyright legislation (here) shows that it provides for criminal copyright infringement which is defined by art 96 as "malicious or fraudulent violation knowingly committed". Where such infringement is committed for commercial purposes (art 98) the statutory penalty is "imprisonment of between one month and one year, plus a fine of between 5,000 and 10,000 Zaïres, or one of these penalties only" (art 97). These provisions are fair enough as they only sanction infringement for commercial purposes and require knowledge that the activity is unlawful. Thus users who infringe unknowingly and for personal purposes would not be sanctioned under criminal law. Civil remedies are regulated by articles 104  - 110. Articles 24 -32 of the legislation provide for exceptions and limitations which cover the basics (quotation, review or criticism, teaching, reporting current events).

The country's WIPOLex entry (here) does not list an IP policy and a search of the Technical Assistance Database does not show any activity specifically directed at IP policy formulation in the DRC.* Nothing has changed since Kingsley's overview of the country's IP administration's web presence (here) and the national IP offices do not maintain any websites.

*Thanks to Hafeni Ashimbonde for his research assistance. 

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