11 January 2013

Tanzania: TRA Stamp On CDs and DVD Under Scrutiny By Artistes

INTRODUCING a Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) stamp to certify music that is sold on Compact Discs (CD's) or films on Digital Versatile Discs (DVD's) has caused a stir within the local arts industry.

This system, which came into effect on January 1 and is said be a genuine and sure way of starting to formalise the industry, has encountered a lot of criticisms from the people (the artistes) for which it is said to be serving.One of these is the Dar es Salaam-based artist, Hadija Nyambasi. From her point of observation she perceives that the TRA stamp will ensure against illegal duplication of artistes works, without these being discovered, which is much waited for line of control.

However, there are limitations within the system, from which actors and actresses like her will lose out. In many cases it's the producers who will financially benefit the most, from this action that is being taken and not the artistes. This is because of the current mode of operations that is being used in the local film industry, Nyambasi explained.

"Someone can call you to act on their film for an agreed amount of money, which you'll get after you've done the work. Then, once you've received this money you've finished with them. After this, it's no longer your concern whether they make a profit out of the film or not," she further said.

The Executive Secretary of the Tanzania Film Federation (TAFF), Wilson Makubi, assured the 'Daily News' that this mode of operation, which Nyambasi referred to, is the one in operation throughout the country. The local singer-songwriter, Vitalis Maembe, went further and said this TRA stamp system stands a chance of reducing incidents of piracy where released CD's and DVD's are concerned, but it will take time for its effectiveness to be visible and felt.

Part of the reasons for this delay in its apparent reality, Maembe explained, is because some of the authority's that is supposed to handle such issues, are the Copyright Society of Tanzania (COSOTA), is not serving the interests of artistes but instead defends the business community's interests that operates within the arts sector. He remained adamant in regards to his belief that there still remains a need to have a body that stands for the rights of artistes without favouritism.

This is even more important now that the demand for locally-produced music has increased greatly. For Maembe this shows how important it is to have a good and just system in operations by which artistes' products are sold. Veteran musician John Kitime plainly says it's not the responsibility of the TRA to handle such a system because it will lead to problems, bearing in mind the differences that exist in the arts sector, which this body is not familiar with.

Kitime feels this is a task, which is more suited to the Arts Council (BASATA) and COSOTA, to handle. In so doing these two bodies would be made a lot more effective than they are presently. However, they would need remodelling before, for them to be suitable for the task. Putting such a matter in the hands of the TRA he sees as just another way to increase money being collected by them. He believes it will do very little towards rectifying the wrongs done to artistes. He also expressed some fears that the introduction of this TRA stamp method could end-up causing an increase in the price for CD's or DVD's on the local market.

Yet still, the Director of Culture Development in the Ministry of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports, Prof Herman Mwansoko, holds a very different view to Kitime and other local artistes. He maintains that from the direct results of putting into operations this TRA stamp, "artistes will be able to get, at least, the right share of their sweat."

The department has given six months - January to June 2013 - for the products, which are not within the formal sector to be phased-out. After this the authorities will start impounding those goods found to be on the market in violation of the laws. Mwansoko admits that through this system artistes will be automatically contributing to the tax system because the Government would have concrete knowledge of their contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GNP).

He further explained that the legal entities that are involved in this process will be connected electronically. These are BASATA, TRA, COSOTA and the National Board of Film Censors. This will make it possible for cross-checking to be done between these four, whenever a request for stamps is being handled. According to Mwansoko the process to secure stamps for their product will be affordable by local artistes.

The ministry choose to start with formalising the films and music sections because these, he says, are the two sections within the arts industry from which they get the most complaints every year. At the end of the six months period, they will make a sort of evaluation before extending the stamping process to other sectors within the industry.

Having heard the reasoning presented by the Ministry, as to why they feel this system will put the arts industry on a formalised footing and the artistes' qualms concerning its effectiveness, all that left to do is just wait and see because time will reveal all.

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