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Papua New Guinean musicians fight for copyright

23 November 2015   |   Analysis   |   By Oala Moi

My name is Oala Moi and I am a Papua New Guinean songwriter and copyright advocate living in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. This is a story about a shared struggle to introduce collective management in PNG for composers, lyricists, record companies, and recording artists so that we are properly remunerated in accordance with the copyright law. We have won a few battles but the war is yet to be won and we still need support.  

David Bridie

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    History of copyright legislation in PNG

    From independence in 1975 up until 2002 copyright law did not exist in PNG. The situation changed in 2000 when Parliament enacted the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2000 (No 21 of 2000). However, it did not become law until 1 July 2002. 

    The Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act is significant for those of us in the PNG music industry as it grants rights to copyright owners, such as lyricists and composers of original musical works. As copyright owners, our copyright is made up of two types of rights: economic and moral. Economic rights are ‘exclusive and remuneration rights, which enable a right holder to benefit financially from a work and these rights include the right to reproduce, translate, adapt, exhibit or perform the work, distribute, broadcast and communicate the work to the public’.[1] Moral rights are ‘rights of paternity and integrity, which maintain a personal link between the author and his work.’[2]

    The Act also grants rights to neighbouring rights owners, such as singers, musicians, producers of sound recordings, and broadcasting organizations, in PNG. As neighbouring rights owners, singers, musicians, and producers have exclusive rights for acts that require our authorization. For example, if you use our sound recording for broadcasting, other communication to the public, or in a public performance, you are required by law to pay us a licensing fee.

    The Problem

    As copyright owners of musical works and neighbouring rights owners of derivative works in PNG, we do not have our own collective management organizations through which we can exercise our copyright and neighbouring rights.

    As a result, Papua New Guinean recording artists and record companies are not properly reimbursed for their work like their counterparts in Australia. This is despite the fact that this remuneration should already be provided for under PNG’s copyright law.

    For some lyricists and composers like myself and my peers, namely Dokona Manoka, Patti Potts Doi, Augustine Emil, Demas Saul, Taita Maraga, and Marianna Ellingson, the Australasian Performing Rights Association Limited (APRA) has become our collective management organization by default because PNG does not have its own. Chin H Meen, who runs the music publishing business PNG Legends Ltd, has had to join APRA as a publisher member for the same reason.

    This Ruth Choulai photo shows consultant KT Ang, the late Tony Soru Subam of PNGPRA, and APRA’s Matthew Fackrell during a break in one of the study meetings held on 25 March 2010 at the Port Moresby Holiday Inn.

    APRA has been one of our biggest allies in our quest for proper copyright recognition and remuneration. As an APRA member, I receive royalties when my songs are used by APRA licensees in PNG, Australia, as well as in other countries and online. When I became a writer member of APRA in 2007 I assigned the public performance right and communication to the public rights of my songs to APRA. They can now license my songs as part of their repertoire to APRA licensees so that they can then use them for business purposes and on television and radio.

    Reaching out to APRA

    Intellectual property rights and in particular copyright have been a preoccupation of mine since I became a writer member of APRA in 2007. But of course, my journey predates my APRA membership.

    I have been a songwriter since 1993 and I have observed changes within the Papua New Guinea music industry with keen interest, especially how it has been affected by the introduction of Internet, mobile phone technology and recording software. The opportunities for and threats to the music industry are a major point of concern for me, this is what led me first to copyright and eventually to APRA.

    In March 2004, I emailed a request for assistance to APRA through the Office of the Chief Executive Officer, Brett Cottle. Later that year in November, APRA Director of International Relations, Scot Morris, visited Port Moresby and met with owners and users of copyright and neighbouring rights from the music and media industries.

    Vagi Onnevagi, Ralph Diweni and the author, Oala Moi, in Brisbane.

    In 2007, I was privileged to attend the ‘PNG and South Pacific Music Copyright Summit’ in Brisbane organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization with the support of APRA. Scot was instrumental in arranging my attendance.

    My association with APRA management and staff continues to help me grow my knowledge as a copyright advocate. I hope APRA has been blessed too as a result of reaching out to help us.

    Renewed call for help - the Amendment Bill and Regulations

    The Intellectual Property Office of Papua New Guinea (IPOPNG) says the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2000 is under review and a draft Bill to amend the Act, including draft regulations, is in place. The Bill will delegate such administrative powers as Office of the Director of Copyright, Copyright Tribunal, and the Collective Management System. Corresponding regulations will create standard forms for licensing, CMO and licensee registration, and dispute resolution.

    IPOPNG Registrar Amelia Na’aru says the Bill will be presented to stakeholders in 2016 for another series of consultations before it is taken to the National Executive Council and then Parliament. The problem is the protracted delay; by 2016, it will have been 12 years since collective management of copyright became official government policy in PNG.

    The copyright law demands that PNG establish its own collective management system to facilitate copyright and neighbouring rights transactions. It is critical the Government of PNG passes the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights (Amendment) Bill so that Papua New Guinean musicians can protect their intellectual property.

    Music is a central element of every culture, and with our diverse cultural landscape, Papua New Guinea’s contemporary music scene has a rich history to draw on. But our music industry cannot flourish if Papua New Guinea’s musicians cannot earn a living from their craft. Like artists everywhere, we deserve to be properly paid for the work that we do so that all of Papua New Guinea can continue to benefit from the contribution that we make to our contemporary culture.

     

    Oala Moi, 39, is songwriter, copyright advocate, and APRA Writer Member since 2007. His songs have been recorded by PNG musicians such as Tarikana ('Crazy', 1997, PGS), Lista Laka ('Labour of Love', 2002, CHM), Greg Aaron ('Smiling Death', 2010, Fuzzy Wuzzy Vinyl), and ni-Vanuatu David Andrews ('Mirror on the Wall', 1998, PGS). He has been instrumental in leading fellow PNG composers to join APRA. Some of them include Patti Potts Doi,  Dokona Manoka, Demas Saul, Augustine Emil, and Taita Maraga.

     

     

    [1] World Intellectual Property Organization. 2007. Learn from the Past, Create the Future. The Arts and Copyright. WIPO Publication No. 935E. Geneva; see p.67.

    [2] ibid