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Page added on July 14, 2011
Local artists jubilated along the streets of Freetown as their country Tuesday passed into law an Act against their most bitter enemy- piracy.
Titled the Copyright Act 2011, the law makes piracy a serious crime in the small West African nation, with culprits liable to a fine of a minimum of sixty million Leones or face three years jail term.
The artists and their fans rallied from Parliament to State House in celebration of the passing of the landmark Act.
At State House, the President of Cassette Sellers Association (CSA) described President Ernest Bai Koroma as a ‘Prophet’ and the ‘Peoples Leader’. Abubakarr Kamara said he is looking forward to Sierra Leonean artists competing with the likes of Akon and others in the international market.
The CSA, with a membership of more than 20,000 scattered across the country, loosely provides jobs to an estimated 15, 000 Sierra Leonean youth at various levels in the marketing/distribution of music and video cds. Ironically, the association had been accused as one of the ring leaders behind the scourge of piracy.
Furthermore, Bilal Bah, a local manager for popular group Dry Eye Crew, claimed that the local music industry currently informally employs over sixty thousand youths. “We can do more if we get more support,” he said, and admonished President Koroma to help secure funding from donors as a means of developing the entertainment industry.
Dressed in a dark blue suit, President Ernest Bai Koroma told the rallying crowd that the passing of the Copyright Act 2011 was a fulfillment of his promise to musicians and other artists on his assumption of office. He said the new Act would protect and promote so many things, including giving investors their returns, creating more jobs and developing the standard of living and life style of local artists.
“Music has contributed greatly to our entertainment industry and this new Act will change the landscape of the industry,” said President Koroma, and issued a stern warning to pirates: “The time is no more; they have run out of luck. The law will take its course against violators.”
Furthermore, President Koroma assured that his government was ready to work with other stakeholders to develop the entertainment industry. He specifically thanked the artists for consolidating peace and bringing joy to Sierra Leone.
However, while the new Act is good news for the artists it is bad news for some business people. At PZ, the so-called business center of Freetown, some youths told Salonejamboree that the new Act would put them out of business. Tejan Kabba, a dealer in music and video cds, appealed to the Government to take a second hard look at the Copyright law and restrict it to just local songs and films.
Similarly, Ali Kargbo said trading in pirated cds has been paying his school fees since he migrated from Lunsar in search of a better life in the capital.
The Copyright Act 2011 Bill, tabled in Parliament by the Hon. Minister of Education, Science and Technology Minkailu Bah with a Certificate of Urgency, was unanimously passed after more than three hours of deliberation.
Below are some of the contributions by MPs:
Hon. Elizabeth Alpha-Lavalie (Sierra Leone Peoples Party – SLPP): “This bill is long overdue. Our Sierra Leonean brothers and sisters have come together, created jobs for themselves and it is now our right to protect them. Today, we are appreciating our artists. Look at the emerging filming industry, which is witnessing rapid development. The movie industry is making steady progress but those who are involved in it are not getting their reward. Piracy was killing the industry. I am so proud to be a contributor of this passage. I am very happy today, I love music, I love dancing and I feel good to see the people who are giving us this satisfaction are protected.”
Hon. Almamy Kamara (All Peoples Congress Party – APC): “I want to congratulate the Honorable Minister of Education for tabling this bill in Parliament. Our collective decision today shows that the leadership of this country is consistent with promises he made earlier on his assumption of power in 2007. Artists will now make fortune after the passing of this bill. Today, our artists perform at various concerts abroad and we must encourage them.”
Hon. Eric Jumu (Sierra Leone Peoples Party – SLPP: “Today, I speak and feel like the musicians and the authors. We have all been guilty of piracy, be it MP or not, but with the passing of this bill I feel we have satisfied the youths. However, I want to urge our artists to do more of traditional songs; songs that depict us as a nation; that should be your challenge now. Finally, I want to appeal for nationwide sensitization on this bill.”
Hon. Marie Jalloh (All Peoples Congress Party – APC): “I was once an artist and I know how it feels. It exposes you to a whole lot of things. This Copyright Act is relevant and timely, and I want to commend President Koroma for pushing forward this bill.”
Hon. B.M Kamanda: “With the passing of this bill, we are putting the future of these people into their own hands. I am just disappointed that it is coming only now.”
Hon. Colson Turay (All Peoples Congress Party – APC): “The bill provides for the protection of creativity. This is a venue for our artist to be employed. I therefore urge the House to pass this bill to make this day happy for our artists and Sierra Leoneans in general.”
Hon. Momoh Pujeh, Minority leader of the Opposition SLPP: “For the first time we are trying to protect our own Elizabeth Taylors. I urge us all to speedily pass the bill so that the youths will go out and jubilate in the streets of Freetown.”
Hon. Soufian Kargbo, Deputy leader of the APC: “This bill is not only about musicians or artists, it is also about academics…”
Murtala Mohamed Kamara, SaloneJamboree.com
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