Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

5 October 2005

Botswana: New Copyright Laws Soon

The government plans to table the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Amendment Bill to Parliament to curb copyright violation, which many artistes have decried.

The Government Gazette of September 29, 2005 says that the Bill aims to amend the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act in order to enhance protection of copyright owners.

As part of the amendment, a copyright office will be established in Gaborone with branches in other areas. The office will have a copyright administrator responsible for the administration of this Act.

There will be a deputy copyright administrator and other officers who might be needed for the office to perform and carry out its duties. The office will among others supervise activities of the copyright society, advice government and its agencies on all matters pertaining to copyright. It will monitor the position of Botswana in relation to international conventions, treaties or agreements relating to copyright. It will also organise awareness campaigns to inform, educate and sensitise the public on matters of copyright.

An arbitration panel will be established to preside over any conflicts. The relevant minister will appoint the Copyright Arbitration panel of three to five members. It must have a person knowledgeable in the field of copyright and an attorney of the High Court of Botswana.

Under the proposed law, every sound and audio-visual recording made available to the public by sale, rental, lending or distribution for commercial purpose in Botswana will have a security device affixed to it. The copyright office will issue the device once the person who wants to make it available to the public has paid. The device will only be approved if the owner of the copyright has made authorisation. The device will be the only indication that it is not a pirated work. Any person who contravenes the set requirements shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding P20, 000 or to an imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. Any person who reproduces the device without the authorisation of the copyright office shall be liable to a fine not exceeding P50, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

Those who import any sound or audiovisual recording for the purpose of sale, rental, lending or distribution to the public for commercial purposes will apply as prescribed by the copyright office. Any person who carries this out without accreditation shall be liable to a fine not exceeding P50, 000.

A copyright society will be enacted to represent owners of the copyright. This will be a non-profit making organisation that will report its operations and performance to the copyright office.

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