Copyright issues have generated a lot of discussions over the years following complaints about younger artistes sampling songs of older musicians without their permission.
While the media is often where these complaints are lodged and subsequently an avenue to settle the issues, the Copyright Office has interestingly revealed that it has not received any official complaints yet.
In an interview with Graphic on Monday, August 19, Mr Ansah Ofori of the Procurement Unit of the Copyright Office said checks from their office showed that there had been no formal complaints from musicians about their songs being stolen.
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“My checks reveal that as of now, the office is yet to receive any complaints of song theft so we are encouraging our musicians to report to the Copyright Office when they believe their intellectual property are stolen. That is the only way the office can take action and by the requirement of the law, settle it,” he said.
He disclosed that until official complaints were made to the office, the culprits could not be dealt with according to the copyright laws.
Briefing Graphic about the processes involved in seeking redress, Mr Ansah Ofori said in the event of an official complaint, the Copyright Office started with arbitration where both parties were required to meet to assess the extent of damage to the intellectual piece.
“If the accused is found guilty from the arbitration, the person is required to make some financial commitment to the owner. However, when he/she falters with payment, that’s when the legal team of the Copyright Office steps in to ensure that the right thing is done by taking the culprit to court,” he said.
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The website of the Ghana Rights Organisation defines copyright simply as the right to copy. Copyright laws grant the creator the exclusive right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute, perform and display the work publicly.
Exclusive in this context means only the creator of such work, not anybody who has access to it and decides to use it.
The purpose of copyright is to allow creators to gain economic benefits but in the opinion of Highlife artiste, Oheneba Kissi, the Copyright Office had failed in helping musicians to accomplish that.
He told Graphic that even though he did not want to contest the Copyright Office over its claims that official complaints had not been made, he believed the office had not done much to protect the intellectual property of musicians.
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He said song theft was on the rise lately not only because the culprits had disregard for the law but the laws were worthless in punishing culprits.
Oheneba Kissi, who is known for songs such as Medo Hemaa, Yenfa Menko, has been on the case of young artistes who don’t seek permission before sampling old songs after Afrobeats artiste, Kelvyn Boy, sampled one of his songs without his permission.
“You can sample someone’s songs 70 years after the person’s death and but even in such cases, you must look for approval from the inheritor or producer but here in Ghana, people have no regard for one’s intellectual property.
“They do what pleases them but that should not be the case. I quite remember that I performed one of my songs outside and I was shocked to realise that people didn’t know I was the original composer.
“These are some of the problems they come with and so I believe that it is right to strive for authorisation from the original composers. Besides, in most cases, you don’t even need to pay but just honour and respect the artiste by giving him recognition,” he said.
When asked if the defence by the younger artistes that they take inspiration from the oldies should be accepted, he said, “How do you take inspiration from someone’s work without his or her blessings? This should not be encouraged and the young artistes should also be questioned on why they do that,” he said.