Parliament Gives ICT Ministry Three-Month Ultimatum To Table Copyright Bill

Parliament Gives ICT Ministry Three-Month Ultimatum To Table Copyright Bill

By Spy Uganda

Kampala: Parliament has directed the Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Hon. Chris Baryomunsi, to table the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights (Amendment) Bill by May 2024 which seeks to introduce amendments to several provisions in the Act.

These amendments include Caller Ring Back Tones (CRBTs) charges by telecommunications companies.  A CRBT is the audible indication heard by the calling party while waiting for their call to be answered by the called destination, and it can be a song, voice, poem, comedy or any piece of audio work that is preset by a telecom.

In its report on issues of national importance raised by Hon. Elijah Mushemeza (Indep., Sheema County South) against telecommunication operations, the Committee on ICT observed that whereas CRBTs are classified as a value added service that telecoms offer to their customers at a monthly subscription, the revenue received by artists is very little.

“Their share of revenue payment is also not in a timely manner. Besides, there are no real time revenue splits for the different rights i.e. performing and mechanical rights to favour all song owners including song writer, publisher, performer, and audio producer,” read the report in part. 

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The report was presented by Kibale County Member of Parliament (MP), Hon.  Cuthbert Abigaba, during plenary sitting on Thursday, 29 February 2024.   

“The breakdown of the revenue sharing formula based on Shs700 from MTN indicated that Government taxes 48 percent (about Shs350), telecoms 35 percent (Shs245), the aggregator 13.2 percent (Shs92.4), and the artiste 1.8 percent (Shs12.6),” read the report in part. 

This revenue sharing formula, according to the committee, does not compare favourably within the region in Kenya, whose new copyright amendment gives artists a share of 52 percent net revenue from the CRBTs, while aggregators are entitled to 8.5 percent and telecoms take 39.5 percent. 

On 20 July 2022, Mawokota County North Member of Parliament, Hon. Hillary Kiyaga, sought leave of the House to introduce a Private Member’s Bill but it was, however, resolved by the MP and Government that they work together to come up with a holistic amendment to the Act. 

Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa wondered why government has delayed to table the Bill, despite assurance that consultations were concluded. 

“If a member has brought a law and you say you will work with him, what went wrong? I think the consultations have ended, let us have the law. I believe three months are enough, we can have it by around May,” Tayebwa said. 

Hon. Kiyaga called for expeditious tabling of the law, saying this will enable artists benefit from their work. 

The Minister of State, ICT and National Guidance, Hon. Godfrey Baluku, said that the ministry is working with the Office of the Attorney General and will soon table the Bill. 

“It is the only medicine we have. The law in Kenya was amended recently and it is working very well,” said Baluku. 

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