Why the rift between artistes and their copyright body continues to widen
For years now, the rift between several artistes and the Uganda Performing Rights Society (UPRS) has been growing.
The UPRS was formed in 1985 and, under the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2006, it is supposed to collect money from all platforms that use Ugandan music on behalf of artistes as well as guard their works against copyright infringement. It is also supposed to collect money for foreign artistes where it has reciprocal
Many artistes have over the years claimed that the UPRS collects money on their behalf but does not remit it to them. Because of that, some artistes, on October 19, 2017, formed the Uganda Music Association (UMA) and started a campaign tagged “Save Uganda Music campaign.” Through this, they say they are fighting against the unfairness of the UPRS.
The musicians who started this campaign include Jose Chameleon a.k.a Joseph Mayanja, Dr. Hilderman a.k.a Hilary Kiyaga, Mesach Semakula, Alexander Bagonza a.k.a Apass and Edrisa Musuuza a.k.a Eddy Kenzo among others.
They appointed Julius Kyazze, the C.E.O of Swangz Avenue, as their president. They claimed that Kyazze understood the dynamics of the music industry better than James Wasula, the C.E.O of the UPRS.
The artistes claim that UPRS lacks transparency – the main reason why they had to form an alternative association. But Martin Nkoyoyo aka, Yoyo, a registered member of the UPRS, says that the only way artistes can fight for their royalties from UPRS is from within.
He said the idea of the “Save Uganda Music campaign” would lead them to nothing.
“The idea of UPRS is good but people running the society lack transparency and accountability. We cannot achieve anything unless we all join UPRS and fight for our rightful shares from within,” Nkoyoyo says.
On May 23, 2018, the UPRS held elections for committees but this activity was largely boycotted by famous musicians.
Nkoyoyo says it is not wise for artistes to boycott UPRS activities
“UPRS is the only recognized body responsible for collecting money on behalf artistes. When UPRS collects money from all platforms, it does not exclude artistes who are not its members but only pays those that are its registered members,” he says
“You can top the charts but if you are not registered under UPRS you get nothing,” Nkoyoyo adds.
Kazibwe Kapo, popularly known for his songs Emundutwaza ku Ggombolola and Sigwa Jjajawo” says he can only go for UPRS election if the executive board is going to be elected too.
“These people formed this body for their selfish benefit. They always call us to go for elections but their committee is never changed. Even during the country elections, we always elect from the president to the local leaders, why doesn’t that apply to UPRS executive board too?” He says.
“Mr. James Wasula the CEO of UPRS is also the CEO of Afrigo band. His Vice Joanita Kawalya, Moses Matovu and many others on the board are all Afrigo members. What do you expect?” Kazibwe adds.
Kazibwe believes with better coordination the “Save Uganda Music” campaign will yield results.
“If musicians can stop infighting this campaign will lead to something. Why UPRS has been exploiting artistes since 1985 is because they are organized and smart,” he says.
But James Wasula, the UPRS C.E.O, says that the reason why some artistes are at loggerheads with the UPRS is that they do not understand what UPRS is.
“Many musicians are following the band wagon because they heard something from the media or from some artistes. They don’t come to consult us. We even reach out to many but still they fail to join” Wasula says.
All artistes we spoke to feel the necessity to have a unifying body to represent their interests such as the UPRS. What seems to be the major issue of contention is the current leadership at the UPRS.