The Film Association of Malawi-(FAMA) has hailed the Copyright Society of Malawi-(COSOMA) for being proactive in sensitizing artists in the country.
This follows information sharing meetings the body has been hosting recently aimed at civic educating stakeholders especially copyright holders including FAMA.
In an interview at the end of the Lilongwe session, FAMA president, Gift Sukez Sukali said the training was an eye opener as many members did not know COSOMA and its functions.
“These sessions are important because FAMA members now understand the work of the copyright body. FAMA members are also going to be able to register their works and interpret copyright issues related to their talent,” explained Sukali.
Among other topics, the training focused on collective management, Blank Media Levy, general principles of copyright, documentation and distribution.
COSOMA Head of Distribution, Shadrick Kumtengo, said the meeting was part of the sensitization program for all artists in the film making sector.
“The programs are for different rightsholders. In the current financial year, the society planned for these for music, films and author of books sectors,” he explained.
He added that while the sensitization focused on different functions under COSOMA, the Blank Media Levy was the center of focus.
“The film category has only one distribution which is blank media levy also called Private Copy Levy. We had to take much time on this for the benefit of the members because it is different with other categories like music and books which have more distributions,” he said.
The training attracted 48 members of FAMA from Lilongwe.
This was the second session after Blantyre in December 2021 with the last episode scheduled for Mzuzu in mid-February.
As the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) continues to sensitize activities of its stakeholders in the country, the body has concluded a pilot project aimed at empowering artists with information.
The society has hailed the program saying through training of trainers sessions, more artists have understood the mandate of the copyright entity.
“We started training artists to become trainers to assist the society in reaching out to their colleagues on our work,” says COSOMA Head of Distribution, Shadrick Kumtengo.
He was speaking at the end a follow up training, the last edition for the artists that the body has been undertaking for some time.
“The refresher was organised to empower them with tools and advance knowledge before they are sent out to start their work.
“COSOMA seeks to achieve presence in more areas using the trainers. This includes imparting knowledge to fellow artists on the work of the society and for the general public to respect intellectual property; copyright in particular,” explained Kumtengo.
As the project has come to an end, the institution is looking at extending similar efforts to other copyright holders.
“We are looking forward to implementing the same initiative for other rightsholders associations. This was a pilot for music category.
“Should it come out successful after a detailed post project analysis, the same shall be replicated to other categories. It will be pertinent to expand the project while hoping for the same level of impact and more,” said Kumtengo.
The training focused on general principles of copyright, collective management, documentation and distribution as well as the Blank Media Levy, among others.
During the one-day training, one of the issues that took centre stage was copyright in the internet era.
“There is need for artists in the country to understand the opportunities and how art works on the digital spaces like YouTube among others,” explained gospel musician Princess Chitsulo.
While acknowledging the issue which of late has been a hot topic in Malawi, COSOMA stated that there is need for sensitization of artists on the matter.
“Indeed, copyright in digital space spurred debate during the training. Discussions were done, however, not exhaustive. We are looking at follow-ups and other trainings focusing on copyright in the digital environment.
“In addition, the society encourages artists to explore all available means to make sure they reap the fruits of their work,” he averred.
So far, on behalf of Malawian artists whose works have been exploited, COSOMA works with the CAPASSO; a South Africa based digital rights licensing agency which collects and distributes royalties to its members (copyright bodies) claimed from social media platforms.
In turn, the members then disburse the royalties to the deserving artists based on laid down principles of copyright in the digital space.
The Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) has distributed about 120 million kwacha in royalties to different arts sectors in the country.
Over 71 million kwacha has been disbursed as Blank Media Levy for literary works/books while more than 48 million has gone to films under the same category of royalties.
COSOMA’s Head of Distribution, Shadrick Kumtengo says the royalties have benefitted about 600 artists in Malawi.
“For the films, the distribution period is January to June 2021. This period is looking at 414 works (films). So far, the 48,084,379.82 million kwacha Blank Media Levy has gone to 202 beneficiaries,” he explained.
Added Kumtengo: “In the books sector, the 71,497,514.37 million kwacha royalties is for one year from July 2020 to June 2021 with 380 beneficiaries.
” One of the recipients, comedian Tannah Harawa alias Mr. Broken English urged fellow artists to register with COSOMA to reap benefits like royalties.
“I only registered with COSOMA just last year and I feel I was losing a lot. If I had registered years ago, I could have benefited more but it's never too late,” he said.
Added the artist who got over 150, 000 kwacha: “So far so good and I hope things will be better than this.”
Meanwhile, the copyright body is working on finalizing other royalties to be distributed to different artists soon.
“Our role does not stop. As such, soon we will be announcing distribution of other royalties. We are just doing final touches with our stakeholders.
“Again, this time around, all the money has been distributed digitally either through the Arts SACCO, Airtel Money, TNM Mpamba and bank transfer.
"While we were doing this because of Covid-19, digital payments is the route we are emphasizing on,” he added.