Once one Of Africa's leading lights, the Ghanaian music industry, has been heading south for the last few years. It urgently needs its stakeholders and the new government to put into place the appropriate structures and policies to arrest a downward spiral. In spite of the seemingly upbeat, celebratory mood that surrounded the glitzy 10th Ghana Music Awards in April, the domestic music market is beset by problems.
Rampant piracy, poor sales of genuine recordings and a collapsed copyright payment administration are the most pressing issues. Many of the mushrooming private radio stations, such as mobile phone operators selling ring tones and nightclub discos, have not been paying their dues for their use of music. This is a surprising turn of affairs as Ghana used to have an excellent reputation with regard to its copyright regime, especially compared to many other African countries. "The Ghana music industry is marking time," concedes Diana Hopeson, president of the Ghanaian musicians' union Musiga. "The legal instrument that will give teeth to the Copyright Act 690 is still not invoked."
The rot began to set in during the protracted passage of the new Copyright Act that was finally passed in 2005. This revised Act was meant to plug gaps in the 1985 Copyright Law put in place by the PNDC military regime. Sadly, four years on, the Copyright Act 690 has still not been enacted.
Meanwhile artists and musicians are increasingly being impoverished as the pirates continue to profit, taking an ever-greater share of the local music market. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) used to estimate Ghana's piracy rate at a no-more-than-commendable 25% of total music sales, but the IFPI issued its last survey in 2001.
Since then the distribution of royalties to the copyright owners of sound-recording works from payments collected by the Copyright Society Of Ghana (COSGA) for public performances and the mechanical reproduction of music, for example through broadcasting, has been at best patchy and at worse nonexistent. COSGA, the country's sole collection society, has become practically moribund.
This unfortunate state of affairs is blamed on the absence of the appropriate Legislative Instrument (LI) being laid out that would determine how the new Copyright Act is implemented. Its formulation has been hampered by the strong lobbying by some musicians, industry personnel and academics...