SONGWRITER PATTI POTTS DOI IN APRA ROYALTY PAYOUT

We’ve discussed music distribution and sales for PNG artists in several posts on this blog. You can read some here, here and here. The fact is after 25 odd years of commercial music in PNG, somewhere along the line we have to start making music a sustainable career as opposed to an expensive hobby. It of course must begin with the artists themselves. I’ve heard the tired old complaint that studios and maybe CHM are holding them back and so on. But I think its no excuse for doing your own research, asking around and teaming up with like minded artists to try new things.

This discussion will continue for a long time yet and with the various methods one can now copy, burn, steal, buy, rip and just listen to music today one thing is for certain, there will no one size fits solution all for every artist. But even before that we do need some sort of meeting of minds of the artists to decide how they want to collectively move forward. Oala Moi a music writer and law student has been looking at these issues seriously for a while now and here he reports on Patti Potts Doi’s royalty payout.

This is a promising step, in terms of artists sharing how they may be going with other forms of payment for their art as opposed to just album sales and concerts.  

By Oala Moi

Thursday 10 February 2011 – Port Moresby: Songwriter Patti Potts Doi is one of a few Papua New Guinean songwriters based in PNG to have received multiple royalty payments from APRA (the Australasian Performing Right Association) in the last five years.

In what is only his second royalty payment since becoming an APRA member in September 2008, the money was paid directly into his Port Moresby bank account in November last year. Patti remained silent about the amount but it is payment for the radio airplay of Patti’s songs which number half a dozen. They were amongst other PNG songs picked up by APRA during their comprehensive analysis of the radio play lists supplied by radio stations Nau FM and Yumi FM.

Speaking in Tok Pisin Patti expressed his delight saying: “Mi amamas long kisim wan silin. Em i sowim olsem ol songraita bilong PNG iken kisim wan silin tu long APRA.” (I am thrilled at the thought of receiving royalties. It goes to show that songwriters from PNG too can earn royalties from APRA).

Patti was full of praise for PNGFM because the royalties he has received actually originate from annual licensing fees paid to APRA by PNGFM since it became the first APRA licensed broadcaster in July 2007. In spite of efforts to engage and educate the local broadcast industry in recent years, a quick check with APRA revealed that PNGFM still remains the sole radio licensee from PNG. This is offensive because it can only mean that there are unlicensed broadcasters out there that continue to play copyright songs without paying licensing fees. Without these fees, songwriters from PNG stand to miss out because APRA uses it to fund the payment of royalties.

The question was put to APRA Executive Mathew Fackrell as to what would be APRA’s position on the issue of unlicensed broadcasters in PNG. Mathew says: “APRA has been in lengthy negotiations with PNG’s major radio stations, TV broadcasters, cable operators and the national airline. While discussions with most operators have been positive, there has been a lack of willingness to come forward and meet their obligations by taking out the necessary licence. APRA will continue to engage with local music users to ensure that the rights of songwriters are upheld and it is hoped that stories such as this one will help to demonstrate how the collective management system is benefiting local songwriters.”

The licensing problem can be traced back to the PNG copyright law. With only a skeletal legal framework, there is literally no structure to make it work. When the PNG Parliament passed the Copyright & Neighbouring Rights Act in the year 2000, it unleashed corresponding rights and obligations for creators and copyright users respectively. The Act has failed miserably to translate rights and obligations into a workable administrative framework. That is why those who supply and demand copyright goods and services in PNG are left to their own devices. And in this licensing jungle, opportunities for perpetrators to breach legal rights and obligations are far greater than there would be in a world where there is a licensing regime. In all these, creators will choose to be passive bystanders because copyright is not their cup of tea. So it is a breath of fresh air when people like Patti persist only to be driven overseas in search of copyright services; to APRA for instance.

But APRA is just a temporary measure. Patti joined APRA because PNG does not have its own collective management society. And Patti is not the only creator without a society. For instance, other copyright owners out there without a society are the recording artists and record labels, film and television producers, book authors and publishers, fine artists and painters, playwrights and screenwriters etc. So this begs the question: what is the government doing?

The PNG Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) is the government agency responsible for copyright law administration. It should be known that IPA has really put in the work to progress the country’s copyright policy especially between the years 2004 and 2008. The Copyright Act was put under the microscope on May 2008 in Port Moresby at a meeting organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), IPA division Intellectual Property Office of PNG (IPOPNG), the PNG Constitutional and Law Reform Commission (CLRC), and the Japan Copyright Office (JCO). It can be said too that APRA was present and made educational presentations. At this meeting two pieces of proposed legislation were tabled for discussion: (1) the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights (Amendment) Bill 2008; and, (2) the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights (Collective Management) Regulations 2008. It is understood that a final draft of the amendments to the Act and the Regulation has been with the Department of Justice and Attorney General (DOJAG) since January last year. Coincidently, many will also recall that the CLRC session during the 2008 meeting was presented by the (then) CLRC Secretary Dr. Lawrence Kalinoe. He is now the DOJAG’s departmental head.

In short, it can be said that PNG requires a collective management system to structure the demand and supply for copyright goods and services. The net effect is that not only would creators in PNG have a legal basis to create their respective collective management societies; both copyright owners and users would also have established procedures through which legitimate copyright transactions can be made. Only the Amendment Bill and Collective Management Regulations can give rise to that system. The only problem is that the Bill and Regulations are yet to be passed by Parliament to become law.

Meanwhile, Patti is now set to release his latest solo album and wasted no time registering songs off the album with APRA on its website. He alone knows that the copyright system works because it has worked for him. And there are high hopes that in the future more PNG songwriters like him will get the chance to earn broadcasting royalties on a regular basis besides income from the sale of cassettes and CDs.

Interested songwriters can log onto the APRA website www.apra-amcos.com.au to complete an online membership form free of charge. They can also contact APRA by email on apra@apra.com.au.

APRA distributes broadcasting royalties to its members in May and November every year. Prior to a distribution, it matches licensing money and radio play lists to ascertain which member should be paid.

[Note: APRA was established in 1926 to administer the performing and communication rights of composers, songwriters and music publishers in Australia and New Zealand. Public performances of music include music used in pubs, clubs, fitness centres, shops, cinemas, festivals, whether performed live, on CDs or played on the radio or television. Communication of music covers music used for music on hold, music accessed over the internet or used by television or radio broadcasters.]