UNDERSTANDING COPYRIGHT : Zimbabwe

There seems to be blurred lines where Copyright is concerned. We often read of cases where creatives are suing each other over Copyright issues and this is barely a fraction of the cases we get to hear about. Are these cases of people that are genuinely not knowledgeable about the laws or its all gambling with the hopes of getting away with infringing another’s Copyrights? Whatever the case is, there is still a lot that needs to be learnt on to avoid these and other issues.

Israel Sebenzo _ Singer, Songwriter and Artist & Repertoire (A&R) Executive.

  1. What is Copyright?

The need to understand Copyright should be anchored in a clear understanding of what it really is.

In simpler terms, Copyrighting is a process used to protect works from theft. Without Copyright, our intellectual property as creatives would be vulnerable.

Through Copyright laws, we are protected from the reproduction, copying publication, performance, public broadcast, communication to the public and adaptation of our works.

  1. What is protected under Copyright?

In Zimbabwe, through The Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act [Chapter 26:05], any creative work is instantly protected upon creation and this protection extends to cover literary, musical, artistic, audio-visuals, sound recordings and broadcast works. The Act however does not protect ideas, procedures, systems, methods of operation, concepts and discoveries among a plethora of other things and I imagine this is where some of the misunderstandings might be stemming from.

Since Copyrights are legal and binding, they, just like any other piece of legislation have terms and conditions to them.  Perhaps, one of the most important pieces to note is the timeframe of copyright protection. With the Zimbabwean Act, most works are protected for 50 years from the date of creation. With global music laws, copyright laws stand up to 70 years after the death of the owner and heirs gain the licenses of the works of the deceased.

As some parts of the worlds are under COVID-19 induced restrictions, creatives find themselves with a lot of time on their hands and naturally, they are led to experimenting and creating more content.

One such way creatives have been creating, particularly in music, is through song covers. Covers have further blurred copyright lines as people are often excited to see their favourite songs being covered by up and coming artists but what is constantly overlooked is seeking permission to cover a song from the publishers so as to avoid infringing with their physical record (mechanical license) and the composition (synch license) copyrights.

As these laws vary from one region to the next and from one creative sector to the other, they are all however underpinned by the same principle and it is of utmost importance to seek more information and get familiar with those laws that apply in the sector you are a player in.

Remember, nothing is worth going through the daunting experiences of a law suit, always do the right thing!

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