Business establishments that fail to pay artists’ royalties will face legal action in line with the 2009 law on intellectual property.
In April this year, Rwanda Development Board announced that beginning July, business establishments playing local music will be required to pay royalties to artistes through a collective management organisation, Rwandan Society of Authors.
However, the process has been off to a slow start largely due to low levels of awareness and involvement among artistes and businesses.
The Minister for Trade and Industry, Francois Kanimba, has admitted that the initiative was facing some challenges largely due to the low levels of public awareness.
“We are at crossroads in terms of developing the local creative industry. We have seen things developing without a clear understanding or framework (legal and institutional). Even public awareness campaigns have not taken place so far,” he said.
He explained that the state of affairs was partly the reason why the Rwanda Development Board had come on board had intervened.
Currently, the RSAU has begun collecting royalties though only a few establishments are making payments.
Kanimba said this will be corrected by enforcing the law to deal with those who attempt to frustrate the process by defaulting.
“What we need to do and you will see this coming up in the next few months is that government institutions involved in this area will find ways to enforce the law. Otherwise it will be for nothing,” he said.
Blaise Ruhima, the Division Manager in charge of Intellectual Property at RDB, said that whatever misunderstanding that might have been there earlier in the year were in the process of being addressed to ensure that everyone was on board.
Ruhima said that it is unfair that business establishments continue to make money off artists’ creations without paying for them.
“This is implementation of a law; we have to find ways to settle all misunderstanding. In the enforcement we have several stakeholders including the national police,” he explained.
Nadine Bwiza, the Chief Executive of the collective management organisation, Rwanda Society of Authors,’’ said that they have begun collecting royalties this month from business establishments which will in turn distribute to artistes.
Bwiza, however, did not disclose when they will make their first disbursements to local artists or the modalities of revenue distribution.
Meanwhile, The New Times understands that a large number of artists are hesitant to sign up to the platform for fear that it could reduce their popularity.
At a meeting convened this week to promote the initiative, only a handful of artists showed up but the ‘big acts’ stayed away.
The musicians figure that radio stations, television stations as well as entertainment spots could stop playing their music to avoid paying hefty sums in royalties.
So far, about 460 artists are registered onto the platform.
Carole Karemera, a renowned actress and performer, told this paper that the fears by the artists were unjustified and could be as a result of lack of proper understanding of copyright law.
As someone who has her creations registered in a number of countries across the world and receives revenue, she said that local artists ought to view the initiative as an opportunity for growth.
She said that the hesitation by artists and a section of businesses to support and comply with the initiative could be addressed through awareness campaigns.
“We also need transparency to create trust,” she told The New Times.
Gadi Oron, the director general of CISAC, the global society for authors and composers, said that such challenges are common when countries kick off royalty collection initiatives but are not insurmountable.