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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Google Africa, WIPO partner on artiste rights

Google Africa office and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), have concluded partnership plans to assist artistes on the continent in managing their intellectual property rights, especially on the web.

The Policy and Government Relations Manager, Google Africa, Ms Ory Okolloh, made this disclosure at the weekend in a public statement made available to ITRealms Online.

Okolloh noted that the contribution made by African musicians and their music throughout history is unquestionable, despite the fact that continent’s musical landscape is rich and contributes not just entertainment value but also a way of sharing tradition and culture.

“Unfortunately, even today, only a few African artistes have been able to make money from the popularity of their music, and most of them struggle to make a living or to get the recognition they deserve,” Okolloh decried.

She noted that inefficient rights management systems, is the bane of cross-border licensing and payment, among other challenges.

These, she said, mean that artistes frequently do not earn as much money as they should from their works.

And in order to address some of these challenges, she said, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), has undertaken a number of initiatives intended to benefit musicians in Africa.

Among which, she said, is a collaboration between WIPO and Google focused on building software that would make it easier, faster, and simpler for musicians and composers in 11 West African countries to get paid for the use of their music worldwide - and help increase their music’s visibility internationally at the same time.

“When a broadcaster plays a song on the radio, a movie studio includes that song on a film soundtrack, or a music service streams it to consumers, they need to know who owns the rights to that song and obtain a license,” she said.

Okolloh pointed out that one of the places they might consult to figure out who owns the rights is a collecting society; an organization dedicated to managing rights for composers, musicians and performers.

“You might need to contact a music publisher, or a record company, or the artists directly. Information on rights can be hard to find, impeding revenue opportunities for artists,” she said.

She listed the 11 countries targeted for this initiative to include Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo, adding that people could sought a solution for this problem, and asked WIPO to come up with a solution that would allow information on their music to be more widely shared.

“With Google as its pro bono technology partner, WIPO will improve its existing rights-management software to do just that,” she said.

Ms Okolloh explained that the aim is to make it easier and more efficient for artistes to get paid for their work.

“Performers, composers, record labels and music publishers will be able to register their music and have that information automatically shared and globally accessible,” she said.

Current and potential licensees, she said, would be able to work out who owns the rights to a work more efficiently, and information about how these licensees are using these works would be immediately available to all these countries’ collection societies, thereby replacing what is often now a manual process of updating various databases.

She emphasised that by working with rights holders and public institutions like WIPO, Google aims to contribute open technology solutions, thereby making it easier for new online services to emerge and for consumers to discover and access creative works.

“In the case of music in developing countries, this need is especially important; African artistes can now reach a global audience and get paid, but only if the rights management information is readily available,” she said, adding that the collaboration would considerably help make this happen and Google is proud to be assisting WIPO in furthering the dissemination of African culture and African artistes in reaching out listeners around the world.

Remmy Nweke:
ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

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