I am a Papua New Guinean songwriter and copyright advocate living in Port Moresby, and this is a story about a struggle to properly remunerate PNG composers, lyricists, record companies and recording artists in accordance with copyright law.
We have won a few battles but the war is yet to be won and we still need support.
From independence in 1975 until 2002, copyright law did not exist in PNG. The situation changed in 2000 when Parliament enacted the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act which became law in July 2002.
The Act is significant for those of us in the PNG music industry as it grants rights to copyright owners, such as lyricists and composers of original musical works.
As copyright owners, our copyright is made up of two types of rights: economic and moral. Economic rights are ‘exclusive and remuneration rights, which enable a right holder to benefit financially from a work. Moral rights are ‘rights of paternity and integrity, which maintain a personal link between the author and his work.’
As copyright owners, we do not have our own collective management organisation through which we can exercise copyright and neighbouring rights.
As a result, Papua New Guinean recording artists and record companies are not properly reimbursed for their work like their counterparts in Australia. This is despite the fact this remuneration is provided for under PNG’s copyright law.
For some lyricists and composers like myself and my peers, namely Dokona Manoka, Patti Potts Doi, Augustine Emil, Demas Saul, Taita Maraga, and Marianna Ellingson, the Australasian Performing Rights Association Limited (APRA) has become our collective management organisation by default.
Chin H Meen, who runs the music publishing business PNG Legends Ltd, has had to join APRA as a publisher member for the same reason.
APRA has been one of our biggest allies in our quest for copyright recognition and remuneration. As an APRA member, I receive royalties when my songs are used by APRA licensees in PNG, Australia as well as in other countries and online.
When I became a writer member of APRA in 2007, I assigned to it the public performance rights of my songs. APRA can now license my songs as part of their repertoire to licensees so they can then use them for business purposes and on television and radio.
I have been a songwriter since 1993 and I have observed changes within the PNG music industry, especially how it has been affected by the introduction of internet, mobile phone technology and recording software.
The opportunities for and threats to the music industry are a major concern to me and this is what led me first to copyright and eventually to APRA.
My association with APRA management and staff continues to help me grow my knowledge as a copyright advocate. I hope APRA has been blessed too as a result of reaching out to help us.
The Intellectual Property Office of PNG says the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2000 is under review and a draft Bill to amend the Act, including draft regulations, is in place.
Intellectual Property Office registrar, Amelia Na’aru, says the Bill will be presented to stakeholders in 2016 for another series of consultations before it is taken to the National Executive Council and then Parliament.
The problem is the protracted delay; by 2016 it will have been 12 years since collective management of copyright became official government policy in PNG.
The copyright law demands that PNG establish its own collective management system to facilitate copyright and neighbouring rights transactions. It is critical that the government passes the Bill so Papua New Guinean musicians can protect their intellectual property.
Music is a central element of culture and, with our diverse cultural landscape, PNG’s contemporary music scene has a rich history to draw on. But our music industry cannot flourish if our musicians cannot earn a living from their craft.
Like artists everywhere, we deserve to be properly paid for the work that we do so that all of PNG can continue to benefit from the contribution that we make to our contemporary culture.
Oala Moi, 39, is songwriter, copyright advocate, and APRA writer member. His songs have been recorded by PNG musicians such as Tarikana ('Crazy', 1997, PGS), Lista Laka ('Labour of Love', 2002, CHM), Greg Aaron ('Smiling Death', 2010, Fuzzy Wuzzy Vinyl), and ni-Vanuatu David Andrews ('Mirror on the Wall', 1998, PGS)