New Tariff Imposed on Local Businesses to Generate Artist Income

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By Daniel Sabiiti

Music copyrights in Rwanda have been strengthened over the past years.

Starting this July, many local businesses will have to pay a fee to play local music to their patrons.

Hotels, bars, nightclubs, radio stations, and commercial advertisers will have to pay loyalty tariffs in order to play copyrighted local music for commercial purposes (adverts), the Rwanda Society of Authors (RSAU) has announced.

The tariff is intended to generate income for local artists and encourage creativity in the music business, according to RSAU.

So far 4461 Rwandan artists, songwriters and producers have registered under the Rwanda Society of Authors to start benefiting from this campaign.

The move comes after the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and RSAU today launched a campaign to create awareness about intellectual properties. The project aims to encourage Rwandans to register their creations in music, art, film and publication among other areas.

Intellectual Properties has been in existence since 2009. Rwandans can register their property rights with the Registrar’s office at Rwanda Development offices located at Gishushu, Kimihurura in Kigali city

“We chose to start with the music industry because it’s more organized but we will include other areas like fine arts, publishing and film works,” said Nadine Bwiza, the CEO of RSAU. “Our plan is to collect royalties from those using artist’s copyrights and distribute the proceeds to the authors.”

Under this arrangement, everyone (producers, composers, singer) who played a role in creating the song will receive royalties on whenever the song makes money.

Rwanda is copying its strategy from the Botswana Society of Authors, who implemented a similar programme and Batswana experts hired by RDB are already in the country to help to determine the tariffs and build capacity during the implementation process.

Botswana Society of Authors CEO Thato J. Mokobi said that, in Botswana, music has been the easiest industry to regulate. He said that it will likely take Rwanda eight years to integrate all creative sectors into the intellectual property tariff.

Rwanda Development Board Registrar General Louise Kayonga said the tariff will be lower than regional and international tariff standards and the charges will be determined relative to the business size and income.

For instance, a five-star hotel will pay more in tariffs than a guest house. A two-star hotel will pay Rwf150, 000 per year. The strategy is different from that used in Botswana, where businesses pay Rwf20.000 per square meter for each room where music is played.

Radio station tariffs, by contrast, are based on gross revenue from the annual revenue statement, because radio stations are businesses that ‘promote’ music intellectual property by playing songs free of charge

Rwanda’s new tariff rates are the lowest in Africa, Kayonga said. WHY? AND WHAT ARE SOME OTHERS FOR COMPARISON?

Traditional singer Cecile Kayirebwa in 2012 brought the first Rwandan lawsuit over intellectual property rights, suing private radio stations and the Rwandan Broadcast Association for playing her songs without permission. The court awarded her Rwf8.6 million in compensation.

Since 2012, intellectual property applications at the Rwanda Development Board have grown steadily as the local and international communities register new ideas, properties and trademarks.

At least 1371 copyrights have been registered, and 3836 trademarks, 112 patents, 14 utility model, and seven industrial designs officially registered at RDB in the last five years.

Business owners who play local music have at least three-month grace period before they start paying tariffs in July.

Rwanda Development Board Chief Executive Officer Claire Akamanzi said the tariff will encourage businesses to respect intellectual property.

“Infringement on intellectual properties is not new to Rwandans. The more new businesses and creations emerge in various sectors the more risks there are of infringement conflicts. But this helps us to learn and improve every time,” Akamanzi said.

Danny Vumbi, a songwriter and member of RSAU, is happy that the long wait is over. “We have been waiting,” he said. “Having rights on the songs will be good for business and help the music industry to earn more.

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