Lax Copyright Laws Crippling Musicians

Tuesday 16th of September 2014 02:33:45 PM  |  Addis Zefen


Previously there was a trend to promote the newly released music albums by posting A3 size papers on electric poles and street walls, shown at the bottom; currently this trend has changed to hanging big size bill boards on buildings with the sponsors.

Yosef Gebre, aka Jossy In Z House, has been working on his new album entitled ‘Meche New’ – literally translated as ‘When is it?’ for six years. His album was supposed to be released during the Easter holiday, but was pushed back to the Ethiopian New Year because of sponsorship deals.

“There is not such a significant change in the market, but the reason we are releasing it now is that it is our work and profession,” says Jossy. “We can even say that the issue related to copyright is worse compared to previous times.”

This is his second album, after the first, Jossy, was released in 2006, featuring the song ‘Metahua’. He also hosts a TV program called ‘Jossy In Z House Show’ on EBS TV. He has been working on this album for six years and spent 450,000Br on the production, releasing 20,000 CDs in the first round. He speaks of how to benefit from musical works.

“CDs are not the source of benefit, but the major thing I am looking to is concerts,” he explains. “I have received requests from America and Europe within a week of releasing my album.”

Jossy is not the only artist to have released an album for the New Year. Abinet Agonafir and Tamirat Desta also released their albums, entitled ‘Astaraki’ and ‘Keza Sefer’, respectively. They also share the same idea as Jossy.

“The sale of CDs has decreased at this time, but what is encouraging is the awareness of the buyers to buy original CDs,” says Abinet. “We can say that they have learnt to hate copied materials.”

But for Jossy, the sale of CDs has increased, but the limitation is on the distribution of the original CDs. He sees the distribution of CDs in regions is too limited, as the people widely use flash disks and memory cards.

One of the major blockages to the industry’s development, in general, and the marketing of CDs in particular, is copyright.

“The law enforcement is very loose and the copyright control can be taken as non-existent,” says Jossy.

Abinet is on his third album and appreciates society’s improvement regarding buying originals, but what is hindering the industry is the introduction of new technologies.

“The players in our homes support flash and memory cars rather than CDs,” explains Abinet. “This discourages the buyer from having CDs, and there are also mobiles that have high quality speakers.”

Previously, copied CDs were the major concern of the copyright issue; this has now changed its face. This problem is also felt by the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Protection Office (EIPPO), as Nasir Nuru, copyright & folklore development team leader at the Office, explains.

“This is the major challenge we are also facing with technological advancements, such as speakers that support flash and memory cards rather than CDs,’’ he says.

But, in order to solve the problems related to copyright, the office has drafted an amendment to the existing bill of copyright protection, which has been passed to Parliament. The new bill includes items related to copyright, such as royalties – meaning that whoever uses the music for generating income, like in night clubs, has to share his income with the rights holder, according to Nasir. And he hopes the bill will bring about some change, once ratified by Parliament.

The prices these artists pay during the production process is a minimum of 300,000 Br, Jossy says. The amount paid for the lyrics and melody of one song could reach 15,000 to 20,000Br, and up to 10,000Br for the arrangement.

Yohannes Gebremariam is the owner and manager of Ethio-Sound Music House. He was listening to Jossy’s new album when Fortune visited his shop. He speaks about the challenge of artists in producing their materials from the angle of production companies.

“There is no company at this time that takes the risk of copyright and buys the master CD for a large sum of money,” he says. “The only thing they do is distribute the copies, as commission agents, and share the income they gain. This again lays the burden on the shoulders of the artists” says Yohannes.

The price of a CD has remained constant for a long time, while the prices of other things have increased. And this encourages the buyer to look for original items, as the prices are not difficult to afford, according to Yohannes.

The one thing the artists are benefiting from is the sponsorship income they get, especially from beer factories. The sponsorship companies may contribute, in terms of bill boards or money.


Previously there was a trend to promote the newly released music albums by posting A3 size papers on electric poles and street walls, shown at the bottom; currently this trend has changed to hanging big size bill boards on buildings with the sponsors.

But in the middle of these challenges, at least three new albums are being released for the New Year, even though the sales have decreased both in the country and abroad, according to Jelalu Reda, manager of Ardi Entertainment, the distributer of Abinet’s album. Music fans expect new works to appear for the New Year, says Jelalu.

“Previously, the income gained came through the sale of cassettes, which has now almost stopped,” says Jelalu. “Abinet and Jossy did not release their songs on cassettes. Although the sale of CDs has increased, the income has decreased.”

Mesfin Workineh is a peddler of CDs and DVDs, walking around the city. He was taking a rest around Ambassador, after chasing cars in the middle of the road when traffic lights stop them.

“The sale of original CDs is better than the previous three years,” he says. “But the prominent buyers are car owners and there is no one asking for copies as was a culture previously.”

He sells one CD for 25 Br, which he buys from shops for 22 Br. The sale of Jossy’s and Abinet’s albums is encouraging for him. He had sold 12 albums of the two artists in a day when Fortune talked to him, on Wednesday September 3.

Amanuel Yilma is an arranger and encourages artists to release their works without fear of copyright breaches. “Burying” albums for years after production because of the fear of less income weakens the industry, according to him.

Idea and use of an idea is not protected under copyright law, but only expressions get protection. In the currently enforceable copyright law, there is no requirement of registration and certification from the office to get protection. Except for foreign nationals, the law gives automatic protection to works upon creation. Foreign nationals are expected to first publish their work in Ethiopia or publish in Ethiopia within 30 days from the date of publication abroad. Therefore, proof of creating a work before others gives one an exclusive right over a work under the law.

The officer at the EIPPO, Nasir, seems to see a brighter future with the new bill and strong commitment from the artists to protect their own products, as well as society’s awareness not to touch other’s property.

But the future seen by the artists is not like the office views it. The loose legal procedure is frustrating them.

“There is not a brighter future that I see, unless the artists work by themselves to transform the situation,” Jossy says. The public awareness needs to be elevated and the protection of the law has to be strengthened.”

He suggested the participation of the artists in different social activities that benefit communities and thereby can bring the feeling of rejecting unlawful use of their products.

“If we serve the public with what we have, the public will begin feeling our pains,” he stresses.

Jossy is planning to invest 50pc of the income he will get to humanitarian activities, as he told Fortune.

Source: addisfortune

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