Culture ministry, Nyundo music school reject IP infringement claims

Singer Mani Martin (pictured) recently caused a stir on social media after he accused Nyundo School of Music students of infringing on his intellectual property and the Ministry of Sports and Culture of undermining artistes’ work.

“When will I benefit from my own 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? Isn’t this even the abuse of intellectual property?” the singer tweeted, tagging the Ministry and Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

The tweet was accompanied by a video of Nyundo students performing his song “Afro” at a regional festival in Dar es Salaam last month, clearly expressing displeasure that they were paid to attend the festival while he wasn’t yet his music was used.

He also pointed out that his other song ‘Rwagasabo’ was sung at the national dialogue, locally known as ‘Umushyikirano’, without his consent. In an interview with The New Times, Mani Martin shared his displeasure.

 “I don’t like this at all. I don’t see the reason why you should hire someone else to perform my music when I am here, alive and available. Imagine other people reaping fruits of the tree you planted?”

The renowned singer and songwriter has also written a letter, whose content he hasn’t revealed, to the Federation of Rwandan Artists to follow up on the matter.

Though many on social media supported the singer, officials and legal experts have brushed off his concerns.

MINISPOC’s spokesperson Karambizi Olivier, and Pius Ntazinda, a lawyer with Trust Law Chambers Cabinet, cited to article 213 concerning free public performance in law N° 31/2009 of 26/10/2009 on the protection of intellectual property.

The law permits any person or group of people to perform publicly someone’s work without authorisation of the author or payment of remuneration “during the official or religious ceremonies where the public performance is made on non-commercial interests.” 

Ntazinda adds that public performances for educational purposes make no exception to the article.

MINISPOC refutes the accusation of hiring the band and challenged the singer to prove any commercial benefit accrued from the Nyundo students performing at Jamafest.

But Mani Martin insists that there is no artiste, who can go to perform at Jamafest from Rwanda when they are not hired by the ministry.

The Nyundo School of Music head, Jacques “Mighty Popo” Muligande, also dismissed Mani Martin’s concerns, stating that what the students did was permitted by law.

“The band was not hired by anyone. Students are invited to represent the country, so they can be financially facilitated in lodging and transportation. Intellectual property law only prohibits reproduction and commercial uses,” Muligande said.

Instead, he said the performance benefited the Afro-pop singer, as many people at Jamafest liked the song and started searching and viewing Mani Martin’s songs.

“It was a promotion for him if anything and he should be proud the next generation looks up to him,” he said.

But the artiste demanded institutions that use artists’ work for free to stop because this is another form of exploitation.

Mani says the school should instead teach the students how to compose their own songs.

Muligande noted that they do teach students how to write their own songs and even teach them to build a repertoire of their own.

This is not the first time the Rwandan music industry has been rocked by copyright related controversies. A while back, Cecile Kayirebwa sued several media outlets for using her products, while singer Senderi International Hit, last year complained about his songs being played during Kwita Izina event yet he was not earning anything.

Despite the law being in place, hope for Rwandan artistes to harvest from their work remains a pipeline dream, as to date there is no mechanism to ensure that musicians and other artists get paid whenever their intellectual property is used.

JAMAFEST (Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki Utamaduni Festival) is a regional arts and cultural extravaganza.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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