Are you breaching copyright law?

In Uganda, without realizing it, many of us breach copy right laws in our day to day life. Are you breaching the copy right law? To answer this question we would need to understand what the said law entails and how it is breached on the daily.

Copy right law is that which gives the creator or author of a literary, musical, cinematography films, broadcasts, artistic, musical, or other creative work the sole right to publish, sell, or deal with it in any manner they deem fit. Copyright owners therefore have the right to control the reproduction of their work, including the right to receive payment for that reproduction. An author may grant or sell those rights to others, including publishers or recording companies.

The law specifically protects “works” which works to become eligible for copyright, sufficient effort must have been expended to make the work original in character and the work must have been written down, recorded or otherwise reduced to material form with or without consent or be a work which is intended to be used by the author as a model or pattern to be multiplied by any industrial process. The spirit behind copy right law is to protect and allow authors of different works to benefit from the effort invested in creating that work.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the copy right law does not protect ideas, concepts, procedures, methods or other things of a similar nature. This essentially means that anything that has not been reduced into writing cannot be protected by the law of copy right.

The copyright is, however limited, it does not apply to public works such as enactments including an Act, Statute, Decree, statutory instruments or other law made by the Legislature or other authorised body, decrees, order or other decision by a court of law for the administration of justice and any official translations from them among others. All publications done for educational purposes or in public interest are not protected by the law of copy right.

Copy right owners have two types of rights namely; the moral rights and the economic rights. Economic rights basically provide for one’s right to publish, produce or reproduce, distribute or make available to the public the original or copies of the work through sale or other means of transfer of ownership, to perform the work in public, to broadcast the work, to communicate the work to the public by wire or wireless means. The economic right basically clothe an author with the rights to deal in the work for commercial gain.

Moral rights on the other hand provide for one’s right to claim authorship of that work, except where the work is included incidentally or accidentally in reporting current events by means of media or other means, to have the author’s name or pseudonym mentioned or acknowledged each time the work is used or whenever any of the acts under section 9 is done in relation to that work, except where it’s not practicable to do so; and to object to, and seek relief in connection with any distortion, mutilation, alteration or modification of the work.

Essentially copy right law is infringed in our daily lives through copying and pasting articles, books without paying royalties or making a reference to the author, downloading music online without paying royalties to the musicians, using songs in advertisements without authorization from the author and reproducing or remixing music without authority from the author.

In Uganda today many more people are becoming aware of their copyright rights and have even gone to courts to enforce them. A case in point is the famous case of Angella Katatumba Versus the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU) (H.C.C.S No. 307 of 2011), where Angella sued the defendants for incorporating her song in an advert without her consent. Court found that the defendants had infringed her copyrights thus entitling her to damages of Ugx. 25,000,000.

In conclusion, before you think of downloading, reproducing or using any work, ask yourself whether by doing so you will infringe any of the above rights.