ZIMBABWE Music Rights Association (Zimura) director Polisile Ncube yesterday said many local artistes were not fully conversant with the provisions of copyright law, and music publishers took advantage of that loophole to cream them off.

Ncube told NewsDay Life & Style, that artistes should approach their offices to seek legal counsel before signing contracts.

“The challenges related to right holders, who are members and non-members (of Zimura), are that of ignorance of their rights as provided for in the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, Chapter 26:05. Some music composers sign contracts that are prejudicial to them with publishers and entertainment venue owners, and only realise it when it’s too late,” she said.

Ncube said copyright violations were a cancer that has eaten into the arts sector, in particular, and the economy in general.

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She said although Zimura had carried out campaigns to curb the vice, the interpretation and implementation of the law has often posed serious challenges.

“We have conducted raids in different provinces, with various stakeholders. However, what remains a challenge is the interpretation and implementation of the Copyright Act by the law enforcement agents like the police and the judiciary so that deterrent penalties and fines are instituted to infringers of the copyright (law),” she said.

Ignorance of the copyright law by the law enforcement agents, Ncube said, was another problem that needed to be dealt with.

“Copyright infringement is both a criminal and civil offense. Some of the public music users pay when we institute legal action against them,” she said, adding that Zimura conducted copyright capacity building workshops for both their members and law enforcement agents regularly.

Ncube was hopeful that the ongoing harmonisation of laws which were out of sync with the Constitution would create an environment in which artistes could benefit from their works.

“At the moment, the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act needs some improvement in terms of specific charges and penalties, so that they become more deterrent in order to discourage copyright infringement,” she said.

Ncube, whose association is responsible for collecting royalties from broadcasters on behalf of musicians, said another challenge was failure by broadcasters to pay on time.

“The major users of music, like broadcasters, are not paying for the music copyright licenses on time and inflation has negatively impacted Zimura’s operations,” she said.