Liberia: Major Step Toward Royalties for Liberian Creators

LIPO, MOCI Sign agreement to establish 'Copyright Society of Liberia'

The Liberia Intellectual Property Office and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry have signed administrative regulation for the establishment of the first-ever Copyright Society of Liberia (COSOL).

Under the regulation, which comes ahead of the 43rd Administrative and 17th Ministerial Councils sessions of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) meetings next week (November 18 to 22, 2019), the government of Liberia committed itself to provide financial support to COSOL for the collection and distribution of royalties in all categories of rights.

Besides, the regulation paves the way for the development of legal and international frameworks agreements to guide the collection and distribution of royalties.

According to Prof. Wilson Tarpeh, Minister of Commerce and Industry, the coming forth of COSOL is in fulfillment of the government's development objectives to empower the creative sectors to put the country on the path of middle-income status.

"As a government," Minister Tarpeh explained, "we will provide the needed capital for the full setup of COSOL because we want to ensure that all intellectual property rights holders' expectations are met by having an institution that forbids others to exploit their work without their expressed authorization, as well as generating fair remuneration from the use of their works or creativity. COSOL, by this regulation, shall perform the function of a collective management organization (CMO) by managing copyright or rights related to copyright.

"The role of COSOL shall be for the direct benefit of copyright holders, the users and the communities within which it operates. COSOL shall manage the copyright of the authors, promote and safeguard the collective interests of rights holders, issue licenses and authorization uses, negotiating rates and terms of use with users, allow a single point of access for the usage of rights holders' works and foster political action in favor of the effective protection of authors' rights, among other responsibilities," Min. Tarpeh said.

Min. Tarpeh who is the Board Chair for the LIPO, further explained that COSOL will lead to the transfer of rights or representation agreement by each creator to national society, the creation of national and international repertoires and reciprocal agreements with other rights management societies.

"Foreign rights owners will be represented by reciprocal representation agreements. Thus, they can exercise the rights to which they are entitled by the national treatment rules of the international copyright and related rights conventions," the minister added.

Min. Tarpeh added that royalties will be distributed annually at the rate of 70% to the right holder; 20% for COSOL administrative Cost and 10% to trust fund

However, Minister Tarpeh said, "the director-general, in consultation with LIPO, shall identify the means of distribution at regular intervals through administrative instructions."

In brief remarks, LIPO Director-General Atty. P. Adelyn Cooper said COSOL, acting on behalf of its members, will negotiate royalty rates and other license terms, and issue licenses to users authorizing the various uses of the works of their members.

"Once a license is issued, COSOL will have the task of enforcing the rights, monitoring uses, collecting the revenue due to its members and distributing it in accordance with agreed distribution schemes based on the use of the works," Atty. Cooper said. "The coming of COSOL will forever change the lives of Liberian creators because of the avenue been created for them to generate funds from their work through royalties.

Atty. Cooper further explained that COSOL will act as important facilitators in Liberia's creative industries by not just administering the licensing of rights but lowering transaction costs for its members and users.

"COSOL is necessary for Liberia because authors or copyright owners cannot be in an indefinite number of places, at the same time exercising individual rights. Likewise, foreign right owners would be unable to exercise their rights outside their country of origin without extreme expense and difficulty. Legally, and economically, COSLO makes it easier for users to clear rights for a large number of works, where individual negotiations to obtain the necessary permissions from every right owner, both national and foreign, would be impractical and entail prohibitive costs," Atty. Cooper added.

Meanwhile, the administrative regulation to establish COSOL, according to the Atty. Cooper is in line the country's 2016 IP Act.

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