Namibia: Outdated Copyrights Law to Be Revamped

20 September 2019

The Namibian Business Intellectual Property Authority (Bipa) said the current copyright law will be updated to include specifics on the digital era and how customs and police officers should deal with piracy.

Namibian music artists, publishers and film makers have complained about their work being reproduced without permission but the current laws have loopholes and appear toothless for implementation.

The authority's intellectual property executive, Ainna Kaundu, revealed this during a seminar on copyrights in Windhoek on Wednesday.

She said, following preliminary engagements with various stakeholders, several omissions and gaps in the current Copyright Act were identified, including the fact that the act failed to outline the duties of law enforcement agents as customs and police officers are barely informed on how they can help enforce the act.

Kaundu said the law also omitted applied art and is unable to address digital technological challenges due to the media's use of copyright works, digital media, and streaming sites such as Netflix, downloading of copyright works, mechanical rights in digital works, databases, software and Artificial Intelligence.

With the looming fourth Industrial Revolution, the country has a framework on how the digital world can be utilised to enhance the creative industry and to regulate it, the authority explained.

"Evidently, the current landscape of copyright law is limited in its response to the dynamics of the creative industry, in particular in the current digital era accompanied by new technologies that reproduce and distribute human expressions," she said.

Kaundu said the current laws have also failed to provide a legal framework on the use of artistic work such as music as ringtones on cellphones and in public transport without rewarding the creator of the materials.

Use of visual images of various famous figures in public without their consent is not addressed in the old act so is audio-visual works.

The act is outdated as it has been in place for the past 25 years and the landscape of the creative industry has evolved and advanced significantly, fuelled by the digital era.

There are two types of rights under copyright, namely moral rights (which protect the non-economic interests of the author) and economic rights (which allow the rights owner to derive financial rewards from the use of their works by others).

According to the Creative Industry Guide 2017/1, there are a total of 852 creative entrepreneurs in Namibia headed by graphic designing at 32,9%, advertising (26,9%); marketing (21,6%); photography (22,2%); with the rest comprising 15% or fewer entrepreneurs.

With the creative industry employment at about 0,65%, the fifth National Development Plan has set a target of 2% for the industry by 2022 and with Bipa's ongoing policy, institutional, legislative and regulatory frameworks reforms coming up, Kaundu said they will create an environment needed to develop the industry.

Copyrights experts William Fisher explained that the creative industry output will be enhanced by strengthening their revenue stream as it will allow them to charge all those who seek permission for the usage of their creations or innovations either locally or internationally.

Fisher highlighted that even though Namibia is a signatory to various intellectual property treaties, most of the treaties are ambiguous and have loopholes that can be used to strengthen the country's internal laws to protect creativity.

During the 2018/19 financial year, the Namibian Society of Composers and Authors of Music representing one segment of the creative industry, distributed over N$1 million as royalty to its members for the music played on private and public platforms.

Copyright is a form of intellectual property law which protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.

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