Opposition MPs Start Consultations on Copyright Law

Opposition MPs have started holding stakeholder engagements with a view of improving a draft private Members’ Bill that seeks to amend the 2006 Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act.

The Bill is sponsored by the Shadow Minister for Culture and Performing Arts, also Mawokota North MP, Hillary Innocent Kiyaga (NUP).

The first stakeholder meeting was held on Friday, September 23, 2022, at Parliament under the chairmanship of the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LOP), Hon Mathias Mpuuga, and drew the participation of officials from the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs led by the Deputy Solicitor General, Pius Biribonwoha, Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) and representatives from the arts industry.

The proposed amendment seeks to close gaps in the 2006 law to recognize and protect the rights of a composer of artistic work and to streamline the registration of copyrights among others.

The Registrar General, Mercy Kainobwisho told the meeting that while her agency, URSB recognizes that there are gaps in the existing law coupled with implementation challenges, there is no need for a Private Members’ Bill her entity had already engaged Uganda Law Reform Commission to process an amendment that would lead to the domestication of international treaties on copyright and audiovisual performances.

“The provisions of this Bill and the proposed amendments of the current Act may be parallel to the steps URSB is taking to amend the Act,” Kainobwisho said.

Her submissions were however challenged by MPs, Abdulhu Byakatonda (Ind., Workers), Geoffrey Kayemba Solo (NUP, Bukomansimbi South) and Kiyaga. Their concerns were amplified by artistes, Hannington Bugingo (comedian) and Sylver Kyagulanyi from the Copyright Institute.

“We wish to have this law amended in the areas of regulation, administration and protection. Regulation is so pertinent because we already have an existing issue with [Uganda Communications Commission] UCC,” Kyagulanyi said in reference to the stage plays and public performance rules which were announced by UCC in 2019.

“We the creatives need to be regulated but what UCC is doing is an exhibition of the gap in the current law. UCC is using a 1964 draconian law – The Stage Plays and Public Entertainment Act which ought to be repealed. UCC would be within their mandate if they try to regulate broadcast but are trying to [stretch their mandate] to the regulation of everything including creativity and creative work,” he added.

The meeting later agreed to a harmonization of the positions of the two sides and hold joint consultations to have the legislation processed within the current financial year.

“With these very good proposals, if we don’t sit and agree on the issues as we have heard them, we [risk] talking about the 2022 law the same way we are talking about the 2006 law,” Biribonwoha said.

Moses Kayigwa