HomeBusiness DigestIntellectual Property Perspectives: Collective management of copyright works

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Copyrighted works are by their very nature not all stand alone intellectual property (IP) assets but have what are termed related or neighboured rights  built around them, albeit comparatively limited in scope and shorter in duration.

Related rights are bestowed upon intermediaries in reward for their ancillary creative contribution to the original work being rights of: Perfoming artists such as actors, dancers and musicians in their perfomances; producers of sound recordings in producing cassettes, compact discs (CDs) downloadable video decoders (DVDs), etc; broadcasting organisations in their broadcasting programmes, publishers in their typsetting, design,printing and binding of books, magazines, journals, etc.

Rights management membership

The membership of collective management organisations (CRMOs) is equally open to all owners of copyright and related rights; including authors, publishers, writers, composers, photographers, musicians, performers etc. However, broadcasting organisations are excluded from the list as they are considered users, notwithstanding their ownership of rights in their broadcasts.

On taking up membership, the right holders are obliged to furnish sufficient personal particulars and declare the works they created. This information is documented to form a database or  national repertoire on the basis of which the collective management organisations creates the necessary link to monitor use of the works, collect and make royalty disbursements to the rightful owner. International repertoires function in the same manner but consist of foreign works managed by foreign colective management organisations the world over.

Types of CRMOs

In this regard, there are two distinct types of CRMOs, being rights clearance centers (RCCs) and one-stop-shops (OSSs).

RCC mainly concern themselves with agency functions in negotiating and granting user-licences on behalf of their membership. This is the status of our Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (ZIMRA) with respect to musical works, and ZIMCOPY with respect to literary works. Meanwhile, OSSs are a sort of coalition of collective organisations dealing with different categories of rights, hence provide centralised, easy to access, quick to process and monitor facilities. With the growing popularity of multimedia houses, the global trend is thus inclining to the formation of OSSs instead.

Rights collectively managed

The type of exclusive rights most commonly taken care of by collective management organisations  include, inter alia:

Rights of reprographic of literacy and musical works, being photocopying and printing, digital-copying and printing;

Right of public performance, being music played or performed in public arenas such as discotheques, hotels, restaurants, aeroplanes, ships, etc;

Right of communication to the public, being theatrical performing of dramatic works such as plays and poems;


Mechanical reproduction rights in music, being in the form of CDs, DVDs, USBs, cassettes, mini-discs and vinyl recordings, and

Right of broadcasting, being live and recorded performances such as radio and television whether transmitted by wireless or digital means

Why collective management?

Collective management of copyright work is crucial in view of the following meritorious social and  economic  realities of life:
Foremost, authors of literary works, music composers, singers and dancers, dramatic composers and performers, broadcasters, publishers and other producers of copyrightable work are amongst a nation’s most prized assets towards the enrichment of the fabric of its historical and cultural heritage, creative legacies, and the progress of science and technologies. 

Copyright products are by their very nature and scope globally fluid in character; conveniently light and portable; easy, cheap and fast to access; and consumed by a very wide range of end-users.

As such, they are prone to infringement at anytime and any place, by anyone and by any means undetected. This has been exacerbated by the digital agenda ushered in by the advent of the internet which enabled and encouraged private or home copying of close to original copies at a time and place of one’s choice.

By their very global character and exposure to piracy of all sorts, copyrighted works are very difficult to monitor and enforce individually. Due to territorial sovereignty and distances, this would be a mammoth task both in terms of costs likely to be incurred and time spent in pursuance thereof.

Because of the fallacy of the territoriality of copyright protection (yes, in light of the internet digitalised environment), it would be high nigh impossible for the bulk of our poverty-stricken, hungry, semi–illiterate, and uninformed copyright creators and owners to study, analyse,decipher, understand interpret,articulate, and enforce the terms of various national laws which are typically couched in legal technical jargon-which to the common man  is a mystic world, esoteric and understood only by a few IP educated and exposed elite.

Compounding the above complexities is the huge paucity of IP knowledge in general and expertise in specificity owing to our near century-long skewed national educational policies which are devoid of any meaningful IP teaching and training. It would be thus phantomic naivety to expect a creator ignorant of the basic conceptual understanding and articulation of their IP rights to then be suddenly able to mobilise the IP protection legislative mechanisms and measures.
There is also the ugly spectre of blatant and gross disrespect of others’ IP creations to constantly contend with. It is a culture now pervasively and cancerously ingrained in our societies, propelled and propped up by a curiously acute lack of political will and vision on the part of IP policy and legislative formulators, implementers and enforcers.

This is the sad peneplain constituting our IP operating environment. Despite our past glory luminaries in literary, musical and artistic works, the current operating environment is painfully very harsh, corrupted and vicious, threatening and unwelcoming, stiffing and choking, menacing and discouraging to and all sundry, including established, emergent and prospective creators.

It is for these reasons that we witness the sprouting of various kinds national, regional and international interactive collective rights management organisations to oversee equitable exploitation of various categories of copyright works at fair and reasonable terms and conditions mainly in literary, musical, dramatic and lately multimedia works.

Collective management works
Collective management organisations assume the role of agency on behalf of their members with respect to, inter alia: Negotiating rates of royalties and the terms and conditions of exploitation, with the prospective users of copyrighted works issuing licences authorising the scope and manner of uses, monitoring uses, collecting and remitting royalties to rights holders, and enforcing of infringement matters.

That way the individual owner is spared the hassles associated with individually undertaking these taxing tasks and as such does not directly get involved.
In tandem therewith,they combine these endeavours and pursuits with empowerment activities in striking strategic linkages, networks and partnerships with regional and global sister organisations; conducting conscientisation and awareness campaign programmes amongst their membership, stakeholders and the consuming public, reviewing and making recommendations on matters of national, regional and global policy and legislative frameworks.

In essence, therefore, collective management organisations are non-governmental bodies whose overall objective is; to ensure a mutually beneficial interactive relationship between the creators of copyright works and their end-users for the common good of society. They do so through effective networks amongst themselves and strategic stakeholders to ensure a conducive operating environment.


Richard Pasipanodya is an IP Consultant who writes in his personal capacity:Feedback at +263775053007 or email at +legacyipchambers@gmail.com.


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