A lot of artists are unaware of copyright laws and as a result, they are either prejudiced or unknowingly commit intellectual property crimes. In Zimbabwe policies have been put into place to grow the Arts Industry. Regardless of this fact, there still exist a lot of misunderstandings and ignorance concerning copyright law and Intellectual Property rights in Zimbabwe.

There is so much potential growth for the Arts industry in Zimbabwe, Artists often move from one recording company to another without full compensation and it is a common practice for artists to be exploited by such record companies as well as exploit each other. Artists such as musicians, mostly earn their money through live shows, and royalties of their copyrighted works. It is beneficial for artists to protect their copyright work due to the time, money and effort invested. Copyright laws restrict the rights of others from making use of one's artistic work without the artist benefiting from such use.

What is a Copyright?

It is part of the Intellectual Property which protects the originality of work that includes authorship, literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. According to the Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act [Chapter 26:05], "copyright means the sole legal right to print, publish, perform film or record a literary or artistic or musical work." This Act goes on further to protect the economic and moral rights of the author and amplifying the preventative measures and protective mechanisms, which aim to contest the violation of an author's right.

When is one's right protected?

The work of an artist is protected from the moment it is fixed and real or substantial. According to Zimbabwe's Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, copyright restricts the rights of others to do the following with a sound recording, without the authorisation of the copyright holder:

  1. to make directly or indirectly, a record expressing the sound recording
  2. to directly or indirectly sell or let for hire ... by way of business a copy of the sound recording.
  3. to import the sound recording ... otherwise than for personal use...
  4. to make the sound available on a computer network without author's
  5. permission
  6. to cause the work to be broadcasted to the subscribers of a diffusion service
  7. to make any changes of the sound recording

Subsequently this is a clear indication that an artist should benefit financially whenever their work is reproduced, published, broadcast and used in public by individuals, for commercial or any other purpose. Registration is also very important for having the facts of the copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registration of one's work entitles the author to statutory damages for intellectual property infringement according to the act.

In Zimbabwe there are several remedies for copyright infringement. However, certain requirements must be met by the author, artist or musician. Firstly according to section 10 of the Act, the work must be eligible for copyright, section 11 states that the author should be a qualified person and the work should qualify for copyright protection by virtue of the country where it was published in terms of section 12. Moreover, the work should be made under the direction and control of the State or designated International Organization as according to section 13 of the Act.

The purpose of registration before an infringement assists the author in establishing that there exists a prima facie right of ownership with regards to the creation of the work. This is a great way of protecting Intellectual Property rights. Registration places the author's work in a public database for ease of reference. Artists can engage legal practitioners on the process of registration as it may be complex and time consuming for a lay person to navigate.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.