The business side of our music industry has never been the same since the sales of Cds dropped drastically for the past decade or more. Therefore to keep your trade relevant in our current dispensation, one has to exhaust all platforms to make ends meet.
The product of the musician which is the song or the music he has produced is his investment in all spheres and should be protected for posterity sake. The rights belong to the musician until he will pass on to eternity therefore whoever intends to use that product should go through the right process in getting that product. Any attempt to use a musicians work without due approval from him or her management is equal to thievery or robbery.
In Ghana, a certain group of people have been going against the need to protect one`s intellectual rights and should be checked as early as possible. These groups consist of advertising agencies, advertisers, radio and television stations, companies and institutions who use the creative works of artistes. To make every assertion in this particular piece valid, I have some key examples here to be used as case studies as we proceed.
Just last week, I was prompted by musician Paa Kwasi of the defunct Dobble fame to intervene on his behalf over something he considers as theft and robbery in a radio commercial. The commercial was for a new bitters in town called Hammer Bitters and in their bid to promote their bitters, the advertising agency or may be the company itself has used one of Paa Kwasi`s song “Ye bro dada” as the main theme song or back ground audio for the commercial. As to why they would use the song without his knowledge beats my imagination knowing very well the radio commercial would definitely be played to the hearing of every one including him.
The saddest thing here is how Paa Kwasi and his handlers will manage this case at a time that most of the institutions who are to take charge of such cases have been labeled not being strong and effective for the course. If it had been other jurisdictions, a firm like Ghamro would have taken charge of such intellectual theft cases and all the necessary punishment meted out to the offenders without fear or favour.
I still remember a case of an advertising agency who used a foreign song for his audio commercial and Ghamro chased him to make clearance on the usage of the foreign song adding that they have the capacity to oversee the intellectual protection of that song in our region. If Ghamro, with all their influence could chase our local agency to make payment and to recognize the efforts of the composer, why are they not doing same for the Ghanaian artiste whose rights is being trampled upon?
Now Paa Kwasi wants to reach the organization aka Hammer Bitters and may be the agency that created the commercial for them but unfortunately for him, there was no contact on the commercial that can lead him to sit with them for any negotiations of a sort. Meanwhile, we all understand that the musician is struggling to survive in this industry, so why don’t we come to their aid?
My next example has to do with a television station and their bid to introduce a new tv show or reality tv that will see the station touring all over the regions of Ghana looking for contestants. In their promo information for the advert, the television station used a song belonging to Danny Beats called Di Asa and upon research, we have realized that the station has not contacted Danny Beats for the usage of his song.
One would argue that for a television station, they should have known better and not go that tangent but unfortunately all businesses are selfish and that they are all looking at their interest first before the other party. We are not too sure about what the outcome will be should Danny Beats and the rest of the people whose songs are being used get to know about these development. It is my prayer that they employ all the necessary arsenals to fight this menace which is eating into our creative arts industry.
To the content creators, this is a little education for you as you prepare to create another commercial piece. In choosing what audio to be used for that project, please get this education briefly from us at Flex newspaper. The easiest way to avoid copyright violations is to create 100% original content. But what about using sound effects or a soundtrack in your video?
The most important question to ask here is, “Am I inhibiting the original creator’s ability to earn money from this work?”. Whether or not the creator is making money from their work, you cannot inhibit their ability to do so. Can this problem end after the publication of this piece? Until one is punished and used as a scapegoat, it will surely continue so be quick to take actions. A word to the wise is in Flex newspaper.