Ugandan artists have petitioned Parliament demanding that telecom companies start paying them some percentage from the money they earn from ringtones on phones.
Through their umbrella body, Uganda Musician Association, the musicians argued that although a big percentage of their revenue base from their music comes from call back ring tones, the Telecom operators have for long taken advantage of loopholes in Copy Rights law to exploit Ugandan artists and end up paying them less than 10% in the revenue share.
The team that handed over the petition to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga at Parliament was led by Association President Sophie Gombya alongside Kato Lubwama (Rubaga South MP).
“The Copy Rights law is in place but hasn’t been enforced. Many artists say they haven’t benefitted from their royalties and yet when they go to radio stations, they are forced to pay,” Gombya explained.
She added: “When an artist produces a song and it is used as a ringtone, the Telecom Company gets 80% revenue while the artists and the middle man are left to share 20% revenue which we believe is exploitative.”
George Bush Kagoda, the Spokesperson of the Association accused telecoms of cheating artists for years of their royalties and efforts to have the matter resolved before the two parties has hit the dead end.
“Corporate companies aren’t endorsing Ugandan musicians anymore and they are endorsing foreign parties. They aren’t investing money in Ugandan concerts anymore but they are investing in foreign artists. We as musicians, we are ambassadors of the nation, we want Government to help us develop our industry,” Kagoda said.
The group also wants the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to be in charge of drawing the statutory instrument and put in place regulations of the Copy Rights laws to govern the music industry instead of having the duty under the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social development.
Lubwama asked Parliament to prevail over the Uganda Communication Commission to enforce local content for Uganda musicians on radio and television while playing music.
“We have a problem of the influence of other countries which are interfering with the music of this country. We have a problem with Nigerians, because they have a lot of money, they come around and pay the televisions and radios to play their music,” said Lubwama.
He added: “We have a rule here that the media (radio and TV) should play 70% promoting local and we have failed. We are being attacked by the western cultures; they are taking our slots. We are losing the grip, culture, identity, super stars are crumbling. Parliament should come in and tell UCC to do the things it is supposed to do.”
Kadaga commended the local musicians for working hard to outcompete the foreign musicians on Uganda market and promised to summon UCC to look into the matter.
“When I was growing up and you had a party without Congolese music, it wasn’t a party; I want to thank you for liberating us and for the creativity. I am disappointed that some people are now coming back, I think I am going to invite the Executive Director of UCC to deal with that,” Kadaga promised.