What do musicians get when everyone is singing their song, and advertisement companies are using their music for commercials? What if their music video is trending online and people are singing their songs in the Churches?
I remember in 1993 when my album with the hit “Winner” medley received the best Gospel Music Award in Ghana from the ECRAG Award organizers.
I was then known as Diana Akiwumi. For my award, I got a stool plague and a certificate. No cash, but I was so happy because one song had changed my destiny!
I was not interested in any legal stuff, honestly, intellectual property dealings that required contracts were cumbersome to me. For instance, I had to sign a contract appointing my then-husband, who was my producer and manager, to our own record label as my manager. I also had to give him another written document to enable him to collect monies from the sale of an album produced by another record label.
I was surprised. In my naivety, I wondered why my producer would demand a contract from me before dealing with my husband who happens to be my manager.
Moreover, at the COSGA office (now GHAMRO), I had to present another contract for myself as an artist cum songwriter and my producer and record label who happened to be Mr. Shadrach Opoku Afriyie of Christian Music Production and the late Rev. Samuel Akiwumi.
The worst happened when I went on tour to Europe in 1995 and wanted to replicate some of my music on Compact Disk (CD). That was when I heard about mechanical royalties. We had to pay an extra amount apart from the cost of the CD and I went like this…”Please, the CD is mine, the money will still come to me so wave that off…” but it was a big no.
Then, I realized that registering my work with the copyright office and the Collective management organization, is not enough as an artist. One needs to consciously get some knowledge in IP to be efficient as an artist. Doggedly, I did not want to know, I only wanted to create and perform.
In time, I got into Unionism and became the 2nd Vice President of the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) in 1999. I stayed as a union executive and rose through the ranks and became its first female National President from 2007 to 2011. During this period, one had to read about our industry and learn from other countries policies regarding the creative arts industry because Ghana was now going to include music into its poverty reduction strategy (GPRS 1).
I read wide so I could contribute during the several policy meetings and advocacy campaigns for the union and the creative arts in general. We had to convince the government that with our IP laws in place, enforcement of the law will ensure the development of our industry and that could help increase Ghana’s GDP.
I was on the Planning Committee for GPRS 2 which metamorphosed into Ghana’s shared growth developing agenda, representing music and the creative arts. I trained with the US Department of Commerce and Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) IP programs in Africa. I was also invited to serve as a member of the Ghana Intellectual Property Policy Committee. By the time I handed over as MUSIGHA President in 2011, my interest in IP law has increased.
I further enrolled to train in the Advanced International Certificate of IP Panorama Multimedia Contents of the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the Korean Invention Promotion Association (KIPA).
At the moment, I am the 2nd Vice Chairman of the Ghana Music Right Owners Organization (GHAMRO) and the Founder CEO of GHMusic Publishing and Management. With the recent recognition of my copyright activism by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Registrar General’s Department and the Copyright Office, I feel a heightened sense of duty to educate my fellow musicians and other industry players on copyright and other intellectual property issues.
In the coming weeks, I’m going to publish a series of blog posts on Intellectual Property (IP) and the Copyright law in Ghana to musicians, composers and creators in general. Here is a brief outline of the topics I’ll be covering:
- Introduction to IP and the copyright law in Ghana
- How to copyright your work in Ghana
- How to get royalties for your work in Ghana
- What to do when someone infringes on your rights and piracy in Ghana
- Copyright in this digital age
- How to enjoy your overseas royalties
- What users of copyrighted work should know
- … and more!
My goal is to encourage creators to take a keen interest in intellectual property and copyright issues, to understand their rights under the copyright laws of Ghana, and to encourage them to register their works with the Copyright Office and their industry’s collective management organization. For it’s only then that we can claim our royalties and avail ourselves to the many protections and provisions under the copyright act of Ghana.