Gambia: On Royalties for Artistes

30 October 2020

The first copyright law in The Gambia called the Copyright Ordinance was enacted by the colonial government in 1911, according to information gathered from NCAC.

That law only addressed texts and written documents, as at the time these were the main creative products coming out of the colony, and the bulk of it was indeed material published by the government such as seasonal papers, gazette entries, reports and speeches.

However, the Copyright Act 2004 mandates the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) to administer the aspect of copyright in The Gambia. The Act also gives the Copyright Office under the NCAC the responsibility to ensure and administer (a) the registration of intellectual-property works such as films, books, and music products; (b) to fight piracy and (c) to sensitise the public on copyright issues.

Now, with Copyright office and Collecting Society of The Gambia up and running, it is high time Gambian artistes start benefiting from their labour.

Recently, the minister of Tourism and Culture disclosed his Ministry's strong desire of letting artistes start receiving their royalties come 2021.

This is a welcome development to Gambian musicians, producers, promoters etc.

For a long time, artistes lodged a complaint about copyrights issues and that's it. On daily basis, our local radios are inundated with Gambian sounds by our own local artistes.

But how many get paid their royalties to that end. In most cases, NCAC officials act without making the necessary enforcement.

For instance, the 2003 Act has clear and decisive enforcement provisions. The Act provides for copyright inspectors under the copyright office who are mandated with Police powers to enter and search premises where copyright infringement is suspected.

In as much as artistes want to get paid for their royalties, it should be made clear that royalties are paid to artistes, who have already registered with the right authorities.

Normally, all the registered artists get paid for their royalties when their music in either played on the radio stations or the television.

As minister Bah rightly put it is heartbreaking to see people using and selling tapes of some artists such as Ifagbondi, the late Omar Bun Jeng while the family is not getting anything as royalty out of it "despite the family has the right to benefit from such works done by their relatives.

We therefore encouraged Gambian writers to write good plays, stories that can be dramatised and shown on Gambia televisions and cinemas.

We also commend the ministry of Tourism for its financial support to artistes amid corona virus.

Most Gambian movies and dramas reflect our current cultural, social issues in the country.

"Royalty is completely different than celebrity. Royalty has a magic all its own."

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