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“We take our industry back”

Artistes jubilate as UPRS top brass are toppled

Arts

“We take our industry back”

A number of Ugandan musicians have celebrated the suspension of the principals of Uganda Performing Rights Society I.e James Wasula and Dickson Matovu a.k.a Uncle Dick.

Some of the artistes sunrise talked to described the decision by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) as a victory that came from years of effort.

This week, URSB suspended Wasula and Matovu for failing to show how they spend the money they collect from users of music such as telecom companies and radio stations.

Sophie Gombya, UMA President told The Sunrise that the Officials’ suspension is an answer to the artistes’ demands.

Ykee Benda, who is also the UMA vice president, remarked that the URSB decision was: “One big step in the right direction. We take our industry back.”

Golden Production’s Mesach Semakula also sounded optimistic when he said: “Suspending UPRS officials is a great step but that is not enough. Artistes need to know all the whereabouts of their money.”

According to URSB, the activities of the Caretakers shall be supervised by URSB and the Members of the Board of UPRS. During this period, URSB is going to constantly engage with all stakeholders and urge them to cooperate with the caretaker.

How it all started

For many years, bad blood flowed between Ugandan musicians and Uganda Performing Rights society (UPRS). Artistes have been claiming that the body had unclear motives and many always wanted to make individual deals which UPRS blocked.

Many artists accused UPRS of being unaccountable to the stakeholders.  They demanded answers that were not forthcoming. Some like the late Mowzey Radio even came close to fighting when he threw a bottle at Edward Sendikaddiwa, a presenter and music critic in apparent opposition to UPRS’s directives. This particular one happened in a meeting that took place at Laftaz lounge, Centenary Park. Other stormy meetings happened at the National Theatre Auditorium.

Other artistes like Cindy Sanyu complained of being blocked from uploading their music on You Tube with claims the peace was already registered by another owner.

Artistes questioned the credibility of UPRS as they had failed to account for over UGX 600Millions they had allegedly collected in 2017. Several artistes have always complained on how UPRS collects and distributes royalties from music users like radios, televisions and the likes

Fed up with the UPRS, the artistes moved to forge greater unity with which they argued would help them fight UPRS. They formed a pressure group they named “Save Uganda Music” during one of their meetings at Laftaz.

Another proposal was mooted to come up with a private members bill that was supposed to be tabled by Kyaddondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, one of their own, as a legally binding law that would replace UPRS.

Realising little progress that was made on those fronts, this year, the artistes’ agreed to formalise their unity and leadership when they formed the Uganda Musicians Association (UMA).

The advent of UMA, appeared to have given added impetus to the voices of musicians, especially in the face of URSB.

Although the artistes had made various petitions to URSB, a new one by UMA appears to have driven the final nail into the leadership of Wasula.

The new leadership of Sophie Gombya pushed ahead with another petition to URSB.

On July 29, 2019, through a statement, URSB declared that they had suspended the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Performing Rights Society (UPRS) James Wasula, and his compliance officer Dickson Matovu.

According to Jane Okot P’ Bitek Langoya, the Deputy Registrar General Registries at URSB, all along they were trying to engage Wasula and co, including asking them to submit their financial returns, but they failed.

Section 75 (4) of the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2006, independent professional caretakers, URSB said Kabiito Karamagi and Rita Baguma Birungi of Ligomarc Advocates have been appointed in consultation with the cooperation of the Board of Directors of the society to temporarily oversee the management of UPRS.

“The activities of the Caretakers shall be supervised by URSB and the Members of the Board of UPRS.

What next?

A number of artistes have expressed optimism that the intervention will result into better management of the affairs of their entity.

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