Copyright, royalty collection and music piracy in Tanzania

By John Kitime

This text provides an overview of music royalty collection in Tanzania, tracing its history from before the country’s independence until the present day, looking in particular at the steps put in place by government, how these actions have been implemented, and the challenges that musicians face in earning royalties.

CMEA CEO P Funk Majani. Photos courtesy of CMEA Facebook page
CMEA CEO P Funk Majani. Photos courtesy of CMEA Facebook page

Historical background (1950s-80s)

The first broadcasting station in Tanzania was Sauti ya Dar es Salaam (Voice of Dar es Salaam), established in 1951. At first, the station could only be heard around Dar es Salaam. In 1955, the services were extended to upcountry and renamed Tanganyika Broadcasting Services. In July 1956 it became Tanganyika Broadcasting Corporation. A few years after independence in 1961, it was renamed Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam (RTD).

Throughout this period and a few years after independence, RTD paid royalties for the music that was aired. Log-sheets were filled after every song was aired and “needle time” recorded, with contributions paid to the British Performing Rights Society (PRS). However, the organization only paid royalties to foreign songs; music from Africa was not paid for. When this came to public attention some time in 1964, RTD was instructed to stop paying royalties altogether as this was considered to be a legacy of colonialism.

Since the mid-1950s, Tanzanian musicians used to cross to Kenya to record and release their music as Tanzania did not have any recording company of its own. Around 1975-76, Kenya and Tanzania got themselves involved in a political wrangle that led to the breakdown of the East African Community. The Tanzania government closed its borders to Kenya for quite a while. This was a big blow to Tanzanian musicians, who relied on the Kenyan recording companies to record and release their music. With this political event, Tanzanian musicians disappeared from the music scene as they could only record in studios owned by the state-owned radio which was then known as Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam,   after which their music would only be played on the radio. This system went on for the next 20 years or so. Occasionally a Tanzanian group would cross into Kenya through illegal routes and record and release records. A number of musicians permanently moved to Kenya and were quite successful, Simba wa Nyika Band being a good example.

The Tanzanian government established the Tanzania Film Company (TFC) in 1968, which was given the task among other things to work as a recording company. TFC did in the 70s record and release some songs, although as there wasn’t a pressing plant in the country, the records were pressed in Zambia. The government also established another entity, the Dar es Salaam Bicycle Company (DABCO), which was the only company allowed to import and sell musical instruments, and also, the only company permitted to import, and distribute records. This caused a huge shortage of recorded music in the country.

By 1976, the audio cassette was introduced to the country. Enterprising businessmen saw an opportunity of making money from the music-hungry market and so began the business of copying and selling music in audiocassette, and music piracy was born in Tanzania. Initially the pirates began by selling foreign cassettes, but slowly cassettes with local music began appearing in shops. This came to the attention of the local musicians, who by 1987 began complaining of piracy and earnestly began pressing their government to come up with a better, workable copyright law. The law at the time, the Copyright Law No 61 of 1966, was just lying on the shelves of the Ministry of Legal Affairs and was never implemented effectively.

Current situation (1990s – present)

By mid-1993, the National Arts Council[i] had come up with the first draft of a new copyright law, but it took another six years before it was brought up to the parliament and made a law. During these years, music pirates had grown in financial strength, with more advanced equipment and more efficient distribution systems. By then the public had developed a culture of buying pirated music. In 1999 Tanzania finally introduced the new Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act (No. 7 of 1999). This was after more than 10 years of struggle, mostly by musicians, who felt the need for a better law after seeing the birth and growth of piracy since the 1980s.

In 2006, the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights (Production and Distribution of Sound and Audiovisual Recordings) Regulations[ii] were issued. Among other things, these regulations mentioned the use of the bandelores, which are numbered stickers pasted on legal CDs or DVDs as an anti-piracy device. Part of the regulations are: a person shall not produce, distribute or import for distribution sound recordings or audio-visual recordings in Tanzania except under a license issued by the Copyright Society of Tanzania under these Regulations referred to as the “Society”. Secondly, an adhesive label, in these Regulations referred to as the HAKIGRAM, shall be affixed to each and every sound recording or audio-visual recording which is distributed or offered or otherwise exposed to the public for distribution by way of sale, hire, rental or otherwise within the United Republic

The law provided for the establishment of the Copyright Society of Tanzania (COSOTA)[iii], which was the body that would oversee the functioning of the regulations. The regulation has failed to take off because the Copyright Society, which is funded by the Government, never got the seed funds to kick start the system and implement it effectively.

In 2013 the Tanzanian government came up with Films and Music Products Regulations 2013, which implemented a system of using Tax Stamps on films and music to curb piracy. This regulation demanded that all film and music products (CDs, DVDs, etc) must have a Tax Stamp. Unfortunately this move has not been successful. Today music distributors have almost completely stopped distributing music, except for a few gospel albums. Musicians have resorted to releasing singles, promoting them heavily in order to earn an income from live performances instead of record sales.

With the introduction of multi-party politics in 1992, the government permitted the establishment of private broadcasting stations. According to the statistics by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA)[iv], up to 2012 there have been some 80 radio stations and 31 TV stations. None pays royalties. All the independent broadcasters inherited the tradition of the government-owned radio station of not paying royalties - and all use the same excuse again and again for musicians who tried to ask for royalty payments: “We are promoting you”. Sometimes they simply stop playing any music by the bothersome musician. The fact that many new musicians simply want their song on the air in the hope of getting booked for live performances has been a benefit for corrupt radio DJs wanting to be paid for playing the music. It is common knowledge among musicians in Tanzania that you have to pay for your music to be aired.
In 2013 the Tanzania Musicians Network (TAMUNET), a local musicians’ organization, came up with a report on the Study on Artist Copyright Management Royalties Collection and Distribution. One of the proposals was that the national government-owned broadcasting station should be the first broadcaster to start paying royalties. Unfortunately this has not yet happened.

Musicians are now getting some royalties from the use of their music as ring tones and ring-back tones, but the payments are not stable and information on the incomes of the music is not readily available. In March 2015 the government released a new proposed regulation, the Communication to the Public Regulation, 2015, as it is still a proposal it is yet to be made public, the regulation again revisits the various modes of royalty payments.

 However, the missing link in implementing the payment of royalties is the fact that none of the most influential Tanzanian musicians seem to find any problem in their music being used for free. This is one of the arguments that music users like using every time the question of royalty payments continues to come up. In conclusion, despite government’s apparent intentions, royalty collection in Tanzania remains largely ineffective, making it difficult for musicians to make a professional career from recorded music.


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