post Copyright Problem

September 1st, 2010

Filed under: Art — Lissan Magazine @ 23:27

Copyright Problem in Ethiopia

Contributed by meaza worku

Among many problems and challenges that art is facing in the third World countries, copyright difficulty is the main danger to the art’s Development. In Ethiopia copyright is a critical issue which requires Serious attention and collective responsibility. The problem is now very big and forces the artists, the government and the society to realize its impacts and crave for its solutions.

Copyright problem is not an occurrence which spread overnight. It has taken root and slowly developed for more than three decades. But through all this time, the artists were not well aware enough to realize the impacts that it has today. Thirteen years ago there were some musicians who were complaining about their creative work being copied from television and radio transmissions and distributed without their permission. But no serious attention was given to their compliant and due measures taken. Now it turned out to be an uncontrollable headache to the artists and the government.

Reflection on different creative arts results

The danger of copy right problem is reflected in all fields of art.
Ideas have been robbed and claimed as original or inventions. These days it is no news to hear that novels and theater scripts have been plagiarized and claimed as original. Anyone can witness that such plagiarized works are from foreign novels or films but cheated as created. Some do not want to mention the fact that the idea is adapted or directly translated and give due acknowledgment to the owner of that particular creative work. Novels can be translated in hundreds of ways in hundreds of languages and by hundreds of people, but the question arises when these hundreds deny the source.

Even there might be a plagiarized novel, short story, short play or full length play not imitated directly form the original language (source) but from the translations (secondary sources). However no such acts have been taken to court for ownership trials due to long distances or deaths. So the stolen works are simply left with scandals and such acts have gained encouragements and licensed to continue illegitimately. The absence of legal registration to creative works and certified ownership is one thing which serves as a hindrance to proper judgment when such ownership claims arise.

The same is true in theater productions. It simply becomes a tradition to take some theater productions directing (such as the style of blocking), stage craft, stage design, costumes and music and apply them in other theater productions without giving any credit to the first creator. In most of the theater houses almost all the ideas the plays and the materials presented on the stage are similar so much so that the audience senses that he/she is watching the same theater production. Everyone can take those similarities as a series of boring clichés but no one regards it as stolen creativities.

In choreographic works, particular movements and costumes were copied and placed for use as if it is public wealth. Photographic works, paintings, sculptures and architectural designs have been copied and sold such that the creators’ ownership is denied and excluded from the rightful benefit that artists must have from those particular creative arts results.

Copyright and audio/video production

Copyright problem is true for all creative arts but music and video film productions however seem worse and exaggerated. That is because the musicians are the ones who only tried to take such cases to court and took initiatives to provoke other artists to press for copyright revolution. But indeed the problems are wide on audio and video productions that outshine other creative works which also forces the artists to speak out loud. Illegal copies of musical albums and video film cassettes were made and distributed. Stickers and covers were imitated. Imitation songs were sang, produced and distributed without the permission of the artist who played it first. Even the only state owned television and radio stations use musical works to accompany commercial advertisements without giving the due payment to the artists, which obviously encourages criminals to consider their actions as right. No agreement is needed with the artists to take one or two best songs from the articular Album and different musicians and produce a collection of music album. This is also common among copyright problems.
The case of video film productions are almost the same but the copied product distributions are for international market.

Opposition movements

All this illegal acts and accumulated oppositions led for open demonstration and strike. Few years ago artists were organized to fight this illegal copying and distribution. On august 21st 2003, a demonstration was held to demand measures to be taken to address the copyright problem and to have a well reformed copy right law. Musicians, producer’s audiovisual publisher’s association members and art admirers participated in the demonstration. After this, there followed a strike for seven months.

Within these seven months, artistes were not to produce any audio video productions. Every one can understand the negative impact that this strike had on the development of art. For more than half a year audiences were banned to enjoy new artistic works, the necessary taxes which the government should have get was stopped. But still the artists were the victims because they were denied a livelihood. At that time more than eighteen musical productions were ready to be released. The market crowd was high that many of the audio video productions were left unheard, which also has a double consequence on the artists. However, that organized opposition movement to copy right problem forced the government to form a temporary committee of copyright to work on the copy right law.

Copy right law in Ethiopia

There is actually a copyright law in principle which was formulated in
1959 Ethiopian Civil Law that the issues of creative and artistic rights were included as part of it. It clearly stated the protection of such rights and all the necessary guides to safeguard from any violation are found in detail.
Considering the fact that any such violations are criminal actions The Ethiopian Criminal Law which was formulated in 1960 also protected such rights. According to the law, any one who disobeys this law should be fined or imprisoned on account of using someone else’s property for personal benefit. That is if that punished individual did not agree with the owner of that property and the owner was not beneficiary from that particular work.
The absence of benefit then would be calculated in money and to the maximum of 1000 (one thousand) Ethiopian birr (which is not more than 120 dollars) will be paid to the owner as compensation for any material loss and moral damage that have been caused according to artists. What seems clear here is that this law lacks constant revision, because no reforms were made since 1959, which would definitely need an attention with regard to current technological and societal changes. That was also one factor for the artists for not relying on the law because it lacks some potential to solve problems, and of course there was a problem in implementing it in to action.

Awareness of copy right law

Among all the challenges that copy right had awareness seems the major one. There were no understandings of copy right law what so ever to claim such rights.
Most of the artists understood that there is no copyright law in Ethiopia which was revealed in that demonstration because they requested to have one. That may be one reason for not going to court for justice and gave time for the criminals to be more organized that nowadays the have become complicated to all concerned bodies. It was even amazing some of the culprits who have robbed peoples’ creative works were at the demonstration wearing T-shirts and carrying flags with inscriptions that read: respect to creative art results! They are also influential enough to be represented in the copyright committee and audiovisual publisher association and they have an undeniable vote. They know each other with the artists, they discussed the matter informally but no one dares to take them to court. Even if they wanted to, they need objective evidence and most of all they must be caught red-handed.

Copy right problem and the revised law

As time passes, the former copy right law is being thoroughly discussed and the revised one is ready for use and all the committees is formed but the problem is wide and deep as it was before and now it got even more complicated. According to the recent information that we have from the copyright committee the problem seemed over when they started that organized movement but now it has started all over again. The pirated copies of audio cassettes are on the market side by side with the originals. People are still doing their illegal doings. They even distributed the forged material to some regional towns.

The 2003 demonstration was to have the revised copyright law which is now available for use but does not seem to have power to solve the problem yet. Some efforts have been made to take some cases to court but the police will ask for evidence and addresses to arrest the criminals. Who is going to search those illegal materials and evidences is the question which every one asks. Those materials which are used to copy are imported to the country untaxed. The problem is still beyond the control of individual and the government but it is there and it is alarming to the art and its development.


Download Ethiopian Copyright Law from 2004 (Negarit Gazeta)

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

© 2012 Lissan Magazine , Powered by WordPress
Initiated & sponsered by Admassu Mamo Kombolcha, Frankfurt, Germany