By Phiwa Sikhondze

The Copyright Society, a collective management organization that represents the rights and interests of creators and authors of musical works in Eswatini, has announced its plans to accelerate the tracking and payment of artists’ royalties, as well as to establish a Development Fund and funeral coverage for its members.

The plans were disclosed by Mmeli Hlanze, the Executive Director of the Society, during a workshop titled ‘Rights Holder Workshop on Copyright’ held at Hilton Garden Inn yesterday.

Having noted that some established Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) take up to 5 years to make their first distribution, Hlanze promised that the society aims to have the first rollout of royalties’ distribution quicker than other CMOs.

He said that the society will monitor and track the usage of musical works, and establish distribution rules that will determine who and how to pay the rights holders. Hlanze said that the society hopes to expedite this process, but also faces the reality that it is the most challenging aspect of its mandate.

“We will then calculate and distribute these royalties accordingly. It wouldn’t be right for us to propose a time frame for this one since it is the hardest of them all. If we were to share on the research we have done on other CMOs, on average they take five years to make their first distribution cycle. However, we are hoping that this process doesn’t take long for us but we say this to put the reality on the table. We want to give you your royalties as soon as possible but the reality is, it’s not something that can happen overnight because we have to get it right,” he said.

He further noted that the society intends to create funds that will provide its members with basic social welfare, such as funeral cover, which is often lacking in the intellectual property sector. He said that the society also plans to establish a fund that will provide funding for travel opportunities for its members, to promote the use of their work abroad and increase the revenue collection from other countries.

He said that the society’s vision is to promote the rights and interests of creators and authors of musical works in Eswatini and to contribute to the economic development and social transformation of the country through the creative sector.

The Registrar of Intellectual Property (IP) Office who was represented by Cebsile Magagula highlighted the lack of IP knowledge and the rights to IP knowledge among artists. As a result, she expressed the need for education to ensure artists are fairly compensated.

“One of the main underlying reasons for these challenges is the lack of IP knowledge and equally, the lack of the right IP knowledge. This session, which we fully encourage and support as the IP Office, seeks to mitigate and eliminate that gap in knowledge so as to safeguard your creative output and ensure there is fair compensation for your efforts and investment,” she said.

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