You cannot copyright ideas
Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (ZIMURA) executive director Polisile Ncube-Chimhini has urged artistes to be wary of others who may steal their works before they have had a chance to produce them.
Speaking during a workshop to educate music stakeholders on Zimura’s operations and the general copyright statutes and procedures in Chinhoyi, Ncube-Chimhini said copyrights can only be registered on tangible work.
“Only tangible works can have copy rights, not ideas, thus if you think of your song in the shower and someone hears you sing it and records before you, they can claim copyrights to that music,” she said.
“The only way possible to challenge that claim is if you have tangible proof that you have written the song first, for example have scribbled it down and with evidence that this was done before the initial recording.”
Ncube-Chimhini said copyrights lasted a lifetime.
“Copyrights last for the lifetime of an artiste and 50 more years after their death, only then can music be said to be in the public domain,” she said.
Ncube-Chimhini said no individual can claim copyright to folklore.
“Works of folklore cannot be copyrighten to individuals, but to communities of their origin, for example Jerusarema dance can be copyrighten by the Murehwa community,” she said. “It is there that those who want to reproduce those folklore can approach for permission. This, however, rarely happens because of ignorance.”
Zimura officials are touring the country’s provinces in an engagement drive to mark their 40 years of existence.
They have so far held workshops with musicians, members of the police, National Prosecution Authority and the media, among other stakeholders.
Zimura deputy director Henry Makombe said they wanted their membership to fully understand their operations and their rights.
“Zimura is founded under Copyrights and Neighbouring Rights Act,” he said. “We manage rights that falls under two groups namely the mechanical rights which are basically rights to record or reproduce work.
“Secondly, we have public performance rights which are rights to play someone’s music in public space, and this includes playing that music on radio stations.”
Makombe said it was the organisation’s mandate to collect revenue from radio stations, bars, night clubs and other public spaces on behalf of the artists.
“If our music is played outside the country, we have reciprocal agreements with similar organizations in those countries both regionally and internationally,” he said.
“Locally we work with various stakeholders in safeguarding the rights of our members, among them the police, Censorship Board and National Prosecution Authority.”
Rose Banda, who heads Zimura’s monitoring department, urged musicians to join the organisation for protection of their rights.
She said her organisation could help artistes scrutinise contracts before entering into agreements.
“We do not advice artistes to get into agreements they do not understand,” she said. “If you are a member of Zimura we will offer advice on contracts.
“In terms of publishing, normally a publisher cannot take more than 50 percent of the shares if you get into an agreement with them.”
There are many instances artistes enter into exploitative contracts, some resulting in publishers earning more than artistes.
This has been the case with many videographers who record videos for artistes free of charge and retain copyrights to those videos.
Zimura said the digital migration of broadcasting services was encouraging in achieving accuracy in revenue collection.
This was in response to a musician identified as TJ, who claimed that his music was frequently played on radio and television, yet he failed to get any royalties.
“It was difficult to get accurate logs on how many times a song was played when a certain someone would be tasked to type these logs; human beings can make errors,” said Banda. “Digitalisation will make it much easier and improve on accuracy.
“As an organisation we are also working on getting a monitoring system that registers directly to our offices every time a song by our member is played on radio or television.”
Banda encouraged artistes to frequently check with Zimura representatives found in all provinces of the country if their music was being properly logged to ensure accountability.
“One can record when their music was played and cross check with log sheets we receive from radio station to ensure transparency,” she said.
Zimura will hold their next workshop in Marondera, Mashonaland East Province, next month.