13 September 2018

Rwanda: Senderi Stirs Up Debate About Copyright After Faulting Rdb for 'Violating Law'

Local afro-beat singer Eric Senderi Nzaramba, alias Senderi International Hit, is blaming Rwanda Development Board for violating the copyright law, reviving debate on the effectiveness of such laws to the protection and development of the local creative industry.

He blames Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the custodians of the country's intellectual property and copyright laws, for playing some of the artist's songs during last week's annual tourism flagship promotion event, Kwita Izina, which he says was done without his consent.

Senderi, who says he followed the 14th edition of the gorilla naming ceremony on TV from Kigali, listed the songs that were played at the colourful event and argues that his songs kept revellers entertained yet he was "hungry".

"Honourable Chief Executive Officer of RDB, I congratulate you for hosting a successful 2018 gorilla naming ceremony event, Kwita Izina, which I followed live on RTV," Senderi wrote on his Instragram page.

He added, "I was so happy to watch participants dance to my songs, such as Ntawabisenya, Iyo Twicaranye, even though I was not there. As an institution that is responsible for copyright protection, it is ideal that you invite us next time to perform our songs".

Senderi says he earns his bread by composing but on that day he "didn't have anything to eat"

"Thank you for considering my concern and may God bless you a lot more to bless others... ," the singer wrote.

Sunny Ntayombya, the Head of Communications and Marketing at RDB, told The New Times yesterday that the institution had reached out to the singer to chart the way forward.

"As RDB, we work to ensure that the laws on copyright and intellectual property protection are adhered to and that artists can enjoy the fruits of their labour. We will continue to do that moving forward," he said.

However, contacted yesterday, Senderi declined to make further comment on the issue

Senderi and RDB officials are set to meet on Tuesday next week.

The law says that performing artists, phonograms, radio and TV programmes, scientific discoveries, designs, all forms of human inventions, trademarks, and commercial names and designs are considered as intellectual property.

If RDB is found to have violated the law, they could pay the singer up to a tune of Rwf10 million.

The penal code says any person who commits an offence of piracy shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of two years to five years and a fine of two million to 10 million francs.

Dr Fidèle Masengo, the Kigali International Arbitration Centre Secretary-General, said that it would be "unfortunate" if it is established that RDB violated the copyright law in playing Senderi's songs.

"There are a couple of provisions on the violation of intellectual property and copyright law," he said, adding that "in such a case, Senderi would have to prove that his songs that were played during Kwita Izina are copyrighted, or if the DJ who played them didn't have the right to do so, or if they were not played from YouTube".

"But it would be sad if it is found out that RDB, the protectors of intellectual property rights, are the ones infringing on them," he added.

Masengo also called for continued sensitisation of artists on intellectual property law for effective protection of their compositions from possible copyright violation.

This, he says, will facilitate the growth of music and arts industry in Rwanda.


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