By Ms Maureen Fondo, Head of Copyright and Related Rights, ARIPO

When we hear the word value, what comes into one’s mind? For some, the word value may mean something worthy, something precious, something that is valuable, or something that is important. Most of us value our possessions, skills, knowledge, and property, which may include a cell phone, clothes, watches, cars, houses, farms, land, domestic animals, laptops, and music systems, to name a few. Children value the little scribbling or drawings they make on papers, walls, boards, or even the toys they create for themselves from paper, clay, boxes, wire, and many more. These are just a few items, which their owners may value.

However, when it comes to intellectual property (IP), which are the human mind’s creations and coming in the form of intangible assets, a few people know and appreciate their value. Nevertheless, products of creativity and innovation can change one’s life and even a country’s economy. Intellectual property is as valuable (if not more) as any other property that a person may hold and treasure. IP is divided into two branches, Industrial Property, and copyright. This article addresses the copyright perspective.

Copyright is a fundamental human right under Article 27(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR), which says, “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.” According to WIPO, Copyright (or author’s right) is a legal term used to describe the rights creators have over their literary and artistic works. Copyright are expressions of ideas in a tangible form. It gives exclusive legal rights that are automatically earned by virtue of creating an original literary or artistic work expressed in a tangible form. Copyright may also mean the right to copy. Related rights / Neighbouring rights are rights whose existence is dependent upon copyrights, e.g., the rights of performers, producers, and broadcasters. The copyrighted work comes with a bundle of rights such as reproduction, distribution, public performance, exhibition, rental, translation, among others.

Copyright industries account for more than 7% of the world’s GDP. Africa is very rich in copyright, but it is yet to realize the full potential and power of the industry. Many African countries are yet to know and appreciate the value of copyright to their economies. However, the world has shifted to the knowledge economy, of which IP is the main driving force.  Like other IP rights, copyright is a source of intellectual capital that can be used to spur economic growth. There are so many industries that are associated with copyright works. The examples include music, film, visual arts, audiovisual works, books, software, and photography.  The silver lining for Africa is that copyright or the creative industry in most countries within the region has experienced rapid growth in the last couple of years.

Creative industries and all other copyright-based industries require creativity, skill and talent. They produce creative content that can be exploited as intellectual property with massive potential for wealth and job creation. The creative industries produce knowledge and tangible creative products that have cultural and social meaning. These works generate income and create job opportunities. The exploitation of the results has the potential to generate wealth. Most copyright holders are still in the informal sector. The creative industries are divided into the following four categories:

  1. Core copyright industries: These are industries wholly engaged in the creation, production, manufacturing, distribution, broadcasting, the performance of copyright-protected works, such as music, theatre productions, visual and graphic arts, photography, collective management societies, television and radio.
  2. Interdependent industries: These are industries engaged in the production, manufacture and sale of the equipment that facilitate creation, production, consumption, or use of creative works in the core copyright industries. Examples of these are manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and distributors of televisions, radio, CD recorders, computers, musical instruments, photocopying machines, etc.
  3. Partial copyright industries: These are industries that have just a specific proportion of their production associated with products protected by copyright and related rights, for example, crafts, jewellery, architecture, furniture, restaurants, etc.
  4. Non-dedicated support industries: These are industries that have a portion of them facilitating the broadcasting, communication, distribution and sale of products. They also include such works as telephony, transportation, internet, etc. [WIPO Guide on Surveying the Economic Contribution of the Copyright-Based Industries (2003)]

Some of the benefits of copyright are:

  1. Economic: These look at the value transference by successfully marketing and branding copyright works. The added value is reflected from creation-production-distribution-consumption;
  2. Social and Cultural: Copyright works entertain, educate and encourage creativity and learning; and
  3. Political: Copyright helps to build good international relations, expand markets, leading to economic growth.

Copyright must be valued as it plays a significant role in the commercialization of creative works. To have a national law that conforms to international norms and standards is the first step. We need to use the law to establish a sustainable system for administration, management and enforcement of copyright for the rights holders to benefit from their works.

National laws are usually influenced by international treaties and conventions such as the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works of 1886, The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPs), The WIPO Copyright Treaty, The WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, Beijing Treaty on Audio-visual Performances 2012 and The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled of 2013. Enabling laws should therefore be enacted to help to administer copyright effectively. It is essential always to remember that the creators’ products are business products that need to be commercialized in the best way possible to provide access, limit piracy, and ensure they receive fair remuneration from practicing, sale, licensing, and/or cross-licensing and collateral. If need be, they should be able to sue for infringement and be compensated as a deterrent to infringers.

Furthermore, countries can undertake studies on the Economic Contribution of Copyright-based Industries to National Economies. At least some African countries have managed to undertake such studies, influencing policymakers to make informed decisions regarding copyright value. As a result, they made appropriate policies, allocated more resources, and strengthened their countries’ legal and institutional infrastructures. A few of such countries are:

  • Botswana: The contribution to GDP of 5.46% surpassed sectors such as water, electricity, agriculture, and manufacturing. In terms of employment, the 2.66% contributed in 2019 was more than mining and quarrying, finance and insurance, water and electricity.
  • Malawi: The contribution of the creative industries was higher than that of the mining and quarrying, human health, education, construction, transport and storage sectors.
  • Tanzania: The contribution of 3.2% and 2.8% was more than the mining and quarrying sectors in 2009 and 2010.
  • In Africa, Botswana’s contribution to GDP of 5.46% is the highest, followed by Kenya’s at 5.3%. South Africa has the highest contribution to employment with 4%, followed by Malawi with 3.35%.

Therefore, there is a need for concerted efforts from the governments, rights holders, public institutions, private sectors, the public, regional organizations and international organizations to ensure proper systems are established and adhered to create value out of copyright.