Rate this
0 (0 votes)
“Is East Africa ready for copyright laws?”
0 out of 5 based on 0 user ratings

“Is East Africa ready for copyright laws?”

Ronald Ochoo

East Africa countries are looking at the issue of copyright and intellectual property, writes Commonwealth Correspondent Ronald “Ronnie” Ochoo from Kampala, Uganda. He says until there is political will to back any new laws, it will be difficult to stem the trade in counterfeits.

Experts suggest that the East African states should ask for more time before adopting the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS. 

The Least Developed Countries (LDCs), including Uganda, will have had extensions on the deadline for meeting obligations under the law designed to protect copyright. Will they beat the 2016 deadline following the record of little work done? 

It will remain to us, the Ugandans, to value whether these agreements will be of any benefit to the nationals or serve the interest of other powers. In good faith this move is positive, but borrowing from the experience of others you will discover that somehow, somewhere the law can clip the wings of economic development in these countries. 

Following a stakeholders meeting at the Open Society Foundation, it was noted that only ten out of 40 LDCs had implemented the TRIPS.  Assistant Commissioner in the Ministry of Trade, Ms. Elizabeth Tamale noted that the LDC will need to be offered an extension since they lack the technicalities and the Ugandan police lack the capacity to implement the agreement. 

Talking about the police, Uganda has trained only 50 policemen to curb copyright breaches and cybercrime, but often they are too few to do the job. Few records of copyright breach have been reported, even though the population is seems enlightened on the intellectual and copy rights laws. 

Kenya is the only East African Country that has tried to put in place these requirements of the World Trade Organisation. Otherwise the whole of East Africa still lags, as the majority has not done anything at all. Uganda is battling with the Copy Rights and Intellectual Property Rights, where two factions of performing artists groups have emerged – one opposing the laws. This has not only facilitated continued acts of piracy in music and other production, but has offered many “jobs”. 

It should be noted that in early July when the Ministry of  Trade tried to implement the import verification policy in a bid to embrace conditions set by TRIPS, traders opposed it vehemently. It took the president’s involvement to cool matters down. What does this show of a country like Uganda? Policies that don’t serve the interests of the Nationals shall always be on books, but never implemented. The verification fees and procedures had to be revised, and that still leaves only Kenya as a team player trying to control the importation of counterfeits. 

I asked for the reactions of traders and artists towards the agreement to which Uganda is a party. Most of them were very skeptical about the whole agreement. If the country can’t deal appropriately with its own locally manufactured counterfeits, then how will they deal with such a wide law of coverage? Taking from these opinions, the consensus is that Uganda as a country lacks the man power to implement such agreements. As well, the technicalities make it almost impossible. 

From my research, the population is much uninformed about the intellectual property laws and copy rights laws in play. With this new agreement coming up, how they will even know about it?

East Africa countries will need to first ensure the population is well informed about the laws on Copy Rights and Intellectual Property. If one is to go any of the shopping plazas around Kampala city you will find that many western movies are being duplicated and sold at less than a dollar, which alone leaves a lot to be desired. The parties involved in the frisk know a thing about the laws because at the end of the day, considering the economic standing of the population, the TRIPS will be a dream! The implementation of this agreement needs more than policies in place. It needs political will because without any political will the law is bound to fail. Looking at the level of poverty in the country, this agreement will never take on at any point. That’s because of the implication it has on the political powers of the party in power if it is to be implemented to the letter. 

From these perspectives one can conclude that LDCs have a long way to go to achieve the set conditions.  In my opinion I would suggest that these countries should not implement the new rules all at once, but rather move on a step-by-step procedure. This should be done by first tackling the counterfeits within the country and then dealing with those coming into the country.  This will not only bring better policy implementation, but also ease the process towards achieving the set goals. 

Still, with all this said the fundamental of any law or policy in any Least Developed Country is the political will to back it up. Without it, that law is bound to find itself on the shelves without any impact. 

photo credit: TaranRampersad via photopin cc

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 “If you aim low, you will land lower. If you aim higher you’ll land high. And if you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it.”

About me:

I am fourth year student of Law at Uganda Christian University, Uganda, and am commonly known as “Ronnie”. A trained mentor, trained youth entrepreneur and customer care management by ILO, I’ve grown up in Kampala.

I am an activist, engaged in causes ranging from youth leadership and development to investment. I come from a humble background and love to live a humble life, impacting people’s lives and developing my leadership ability while realising the potential in people.

For more details about me please check the link: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ronald-ochoo/2b/284/23b

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Comments

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments