The music industry in Ghana for the past two decades has recorded low
patronage of musical albums due to the increasing rate of piracy.
Piracy of musical works of Ghanaian artistes leads to the loss of billions of cedis in revenue. These losses are recorded in only music piracy in the Ghanaian economy.
Piracy in the Ghanaian music industry cost the industry over ˘20 billion (GH˘2million) between 2000 and 2006.
Beatwaves’ investigations revealed that most of the pirated musical works were allegedly manufactured in China, Hong Kong and Togo and smuggled into the country.
Ghana currently has a new copyright law which was passed by Parliament in 2005 and assented to by the President, but it is not being implemented because there is no Legislative Instrument (LI) to show the modalities through which the law could be implemented.
The word piracy is generally used to describe the deliberate infringement of copyright on a commercial scale, such as unauthorized duplication of an original recording for commercial gain without the consent of the rights owner. The packaging of pirated CDs is different from the original. Pirated copies are often compilations such as the greatest hits of a specific artiste, or a collection of a specific genre such as dance tracks.
If piracy is not checked, the country would continue to lose billions of cedis through tax evasion and royalties to musicians.
The situation currently calls for the enforcement of the new Copyright Act 690 to bring fresh hope to Ghanaian musicians.
In its 2003 annual report, the International Intellectual Property Alliance’s global watch rated certain African countries including Ghana as worst hit by infringement of copyright.
A professional body like the Copyright Society of Ghana (COSGA), tasked for the collection and distribution of royalties for stakeholders in the copyright sector, is not helping the stakeholders and the industry as a whole because it has failed to put in place measures that would force music users to pay royalties to the right owners.
Investigation reveals that piracy costs the Ghanaian music industry a staggering GH˘2million cedis. The findings were approximated from annual returns of cassette sales.
“There is no evidence that pirates remit the illegally acquired money to the musicians, composers or producers,” stated a music producer.
Copyright owners, the investigation revealed, also lost over millions of cedis in unremitted royalties. Against the backdrop of such mind-boggling figures, the new Copyright Act 690 could now be enforced to bring hope to the industry’s stakeholders.
In Ghana today, original musical works on compact discs (CD) are not patronised because of pirates who flood the market with counterfeit products which they sell at cheap prices to enrich themselves at the expense of the original owners.
If the stakeholders allow the music industry to collapse, the nation’s cultural heritage and tourism potential would suffer as countless jobs would be lost.
The Copyright Act 690 stipulates that it is illegal to play copyrighted music publicly without express authority of the duly registered copyright owner or a royalties collection society.
COSGA is mandated to license end-users of recorded music which include broadcast stations, hotels, pubs, supermarkets, shopping malls, mobile ringtone retailers and mushrooming exhibition halls.
Airlines, entertainment clubs, restaurants, cyber cafes, beauty salons, live concerts and event organisers involved in re-broadcast or performance of music to the public are also required to apply for registration.
Banks, cinema halls, music stores/shops, gymnasiums, mobile discos, promotional vans, public rallies, agricultural shows or any other group communicating to the public have to pay up as well.
Many music users have been accused of failing to settle royalties estimated at millions of cedis spanning over five years.
The stakeholders called on the government to set up copyright tribunals to deal with those who violate piracy laws, and as well force music users to pay the expected royalties to benefit owners of music works.
The weapon to wage war against piracy is already available in many countries, where computerised public address systems are used in broadcasting, hotels, restaurants, night clubs, etc., to monitor all records played and the number of times each was played in the past. COSGA should work assiduously to introduce such system in Ghana.
However, to deal with the “street marketing” or retailing which can never be possible because of the large number of unregistered independent producers and the exponential increase of record retailers, which has created an evasive problem of uncontrollable piracy, a new system of marketing must be sought.
Stakeholders should put in place measures that would make piracy unattractive so that musicians can enjoy the fruits of their labour.
The problem confronting the music industry is enormous and requires all hands-on-deck to deal with it. We are all part of the problem, the piracy is one of the biggest threats to our in our economy but the public seems not to be co-operating because for instance they see music downloading as a normal thing.
The general public needs to be educated on the whole issue of piracy and the various arms of the Copyright Administration need to be strengthened for the task ahead. Reports available also indicate that an estimated 3.6 billion songs are illegally downloaded each month in the United States. In 1999, the music industry estimated that one in four compact discs of new music was actually an unauthorized copy. By the end of 2001, it was estimated that as many CDs were burned and copied as were bought. In Europe, blank CDs are outselling recorded CDs (although these blank CDs might have also been purchased for legitimate reasons, such as to back-up personal computer files).
And since 1999, ownership of CD burners has nearly tripled. This trend of consumers sharing their music rather than purchasing it may be attributable to many factors, including the slow economy.
However, the industry believes that the most likely culprit of this trend is the increase in digital music, i.e. free online file sharing, and the growing popularity of CD burners.
Promotional screener DVDs distributed by movie studios are common examples of unauthorised copying when movies are still in theatrical release, and the MPAA has attempted to restrict their use.
Movies are still copied by sneaking camcorders into movie theaters and secretly taping the projection (also known as “CAM”), although such copies are often of lesser quality than copied versions of the officially released film. Sharing copied music is legal in many countries such as Canada, and parts of Europe, provided it is neither advertised nor sold.
People illegally selling copyrighted material are known to peddle VCDs, CDs, and DVDs by the roadside, market, night market etc. in some countries.