Google to help Africa's musos

Google and the World Intellectual Property Organisation will take steps to help musicians in 11 African countries control the rights to their music.

Google says in its Africa blog that only a few African artists have been able to make money from the popularity of their music, and most of them struggle to make a living or to get the recognition they deserve.

Inefficient rights management systems, difficulties in cross-border licensing and payment, and other challenges, mean that artists frequently don’ t earn as much money as they should from their work.

In order to address some of these challenges, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has undertaken a number of initiatives intended to benefit musicians in Africa. Among the initiatives, is a collaboration between WIPO and Google focused on building software that will make it easier, faster, and simpler for musicians and composers in 11 West African countries to get paid for the use of their music worldwide - and help increase their music’ s visibility internationally at the same time.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry says the project to build a common digital platform will help streamline the identification of protected musical works, helping creators from these countries get paid for their work through a simplified and standardised rights registration system. Google will be WIPO’ s technology partner in developing this new web-based system, which builds upon WIPOCOS (WIPO Software for Collective Management of Copyright and Related Rights).

Google says that when a broadcaster plays a song on the radio, a movie studio includes that song on a film soundtrack, or a music service streams it to consumers, they need to know who owns the rights to that song and obtain a license.

One of the places they might consult to figure out who owns the rights is a collecting society - an organisation dedicated to managing rights for composers, musicians and performers. You might need to contact a music publisher, or a record company, or the artists directly. Information on rights can be hard to find, impeding revenue opportunities for artists.

The project will collate information about music from the 11 countries in question - Benin, Burkina Faso, Cô te d’ Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo – allowing performers, composers, record labels and music publishers to register their music and have that information automatically shared and globally accessible.

Current and potential licensees will be able to determine who owns the rights to a work more efficiently, and information about how these licensees are using these works will be immediately available to all these countries’ collection societies, replacing what is often now a manual process of updating various databases.

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