The Secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources'
Albert Einstein( German Born American Physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity. Nobel prize winner for Physics 1921.
It is undeniable that the level of creativity we have in Uganda is enviable. We are fortunate to have a number of poets, authors, artists, musicians and designers etcetera. We have so much creativity that the powers that be decided to enact a law to protect said creatives, in the hope of ensuring that they can not only reap from their creative minds but also have a chance to forever be recognized for their efforts.
Ironically, although copyrightâ€™s core attribute is originality, for historical reasons, Uganda modeled its copyright laws around the British copyright system. Copyright in Uganda is currently governed by The Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act (CNRA). The act provides protection for almost all physical forms of creative work like literary works; dramatic and musical works, including any accompanying words; audiovisual and cinematographic works; works of drawing, engraving, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; works of applied art and designing; illustrations, maps, plans and three dimensional works; derivative and compilation works; and traditional folklore and knowledge among others.
Copyright protection works in three simple ways, have an idea, concept, express that idea/concept in material form by either recording it if it is a song or tune and get automatic protection.
Copyright protection is granted to the expression of the idea, not to the idea itself. This principle is known as the idea-expression dichotomy. Usually this protection lasts for 50 years but the right to be associated to your work lasts even beyond an authorâ€™s life time.
Sadly, the notion of copyright protection is yet to take root in Uganda. In the Music industry for example, authors are exploited daily by copyright users who enjoy their work without permission without any form of compensation or remuneration. Although this is partly their fault, seeing as they go so far as begging â€œthe fansâ€ to download their music.
In the more developed jurisdictions where copyright protection is more strictly enforced, we have seen a number of famous cases that have the headlines.
Most Notably is the Obama Hope poster that went viral in 2008 during the obama campaign. Although the image was largely associated with the Obama campaign, we were later to learn that the true author of the photograph was taken in 2006 by Mannie Garcia for the Associated Press.
A Famous street artist Shephard Fairey created the Hope poster during President Obamaâ€™s first run for presidential election in 2008. The design rapidly became a symbol for Obamaâ€™s campaign, technically independent of the campaign but with its approval. In January 2009, the photograph on which Fairey allegedly based the design was revealed by the Associated Press as one shot by AP freelancer Mannie Garcia â€” with the AP demanding compensation for its use in Faireyâ€™s work.
Fairey responded with the defense of fair use, claiming his work didnâ€™t reduce the value of the original photograph. The artist and the AP press came to a private settlement in January 2011, part of which included a split in the profits for the work.
Although the case did not go to trial, this case created a lot of discourse around the value of work in these copyright battles. Itâ€™s unlikely that Garciaâ€™s work could have ever reached the level of fame it did, if not for Faireyâ€™s poster. Garcia himself stated he was â€so proud of the photograph and that Fairey did what he did artistically with it, and the effect it has had,â€ but still had a problem with the fact that Fairey took the image without permission and without credit for itâ€™s originator.
In 2004, a Kenyan company Alternative Media sued for injunctive relief against Safaricom Ltd for copyright infringement on its design. The design which was modeled on a campaign against the spread of HIV/AIDS had been submitted to Safaricom as a proposal to be used on their 250 airtime scratch cards.
Safaricom had turned down Alternative Mediaâ€™s proposal but later used an almost similar design to it, in its airtime scratch cards with intention to run the campaign. Although the Kenyan courts agreed that the defendant had indeed infringed on the plaintiffâ€™s copyright because the design they used on their airtime scratch cards was substantially the same as the one submitted by the plaintiff to them as a proposal; the court was however reluctant to grant the plaintiff the desired interlocutory injunction stating that the defendant being a major stakeholder in the countryâ€™s telecommunication industry and that an injunction will hamper an integral part of the countyâ€™s economy.
That is not to say that Uganda is completely in the dark. We have had a number of jurisprudence concerning copyright in the music industry. Most of these cases have been championed by the effort of Uganda Performing Rights Society (UPRS). UPRS has done a commendable job in protecting the rights of its members. Itâ€™s the photography, design and modeling industry that still lags behind. In 2013, a group of young entrepreneurs T/A Urbane Entertainment sued Nile Breweries Ltd for Copyright infringement for the unauthorized use of their copyrighted material.
Urbane Entertainment claimed to have come up with a TV production for a Music Video Awards show, which they pitched to Club Beer. They further claimed that Club, in circumstances similar to the Kenyan case, copied their idea and hosted the Club Video Music Awards. Although this case was settled at mediation, it shed some light on the level of impunity with which copyright infringement takes place.
Not until the victims bring unauthorized users of their work to book will we see a change. We still see so many downloaded images on billboards that are used to advertise even the most mundane of items. However, most of these images are used without credit to the author. This can only mean that the authors havenâ€™t woken up to smell the coffee or they do not know that they have a cause of action against the users of such work. The lesson from the cases is clear, when using someone elseâ€™s work, make sure everyone knows the source.
The words of Albert Einsten could not resound any louder. As to whether the copyright infringers will keep getting away with it; we will just have to wait and see.