Some local artists have pointed a finger at Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS) for alleged mismanagement of royalty funds collected from radio stations and events.
Showtime has learnt that the organisation mandated to protect artists from exploitation used the royalty funds to cover administration costs without any consultation with the rightful owners of the funds.
Initially, COSBOTS collected royalties on behalf of artists from a variety of copyrighted content users and got 30% of the funds to cover operational costs.
Showtime caught up with a rapper, producer and founding owner of BlxckMail Entertainment, Nqobizitha Ben (stage named JT Specialboy), who formally registered and became a member of the society on September 2015.
The artist claims that he has never interacted with the non-governmental organisation post the registration.
“I only went to COSBOTS on February last year to claim my three-year royalties but I was only given P158. The way they offered to deposit the money rang alarms and ever since that time, I have been collecting useful information on how the organisation operates,” Nqobizitha said.
The rapper said that ever since then, there have never been any other distributions.
“The current amount I got for Royalty Distribution 010 as an artist, which effected from October 2017 to March 2018 is P23 and I can attest that indeed there has never been Distributions 008 and 009,” Ben said. A form Ben wielded stated that only two songs of the rapper doubling as a producer were played on Radio Botswana (RB1 & 2) stations, a statement he rebutted.
COSBOTS has a Holding account that the organisation uses to safe-keep royalty funds for seven years maximum.
The account was enacted to keep funds for artists before distribution and for those who are not yet members of the copyright society.
JT Specialboy alleged that this account was emptied during the controversial Distributions 008 and 009 to cover administration costs as purported by the organisation.
Another musician, Otsile Donald ‘Oatsdona’ Enare said he is not satisfied with the royalty payout.
“They are paying us peanuts. I was paid P540 for distribution number 10 despite the high airplay my music received,” he said.
Oatsdona added that his songs play everyday almost in all radio stations.
“If I was to measure my airplay across all radio stations, I find that I deserve much more royalties.”
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COSBOTS spokesperson, Seeletso Lekgaba admitted that the manner in which a CMO operates is such that a certain percentage of collected royalties is used for administration fees.
“This allows for the CMO to operate and be able to carry out its mandate of collecting and distributing. We are a non-profit making organisation that is not funded by any outside entities. When users have paid, a percentage is used to cover the costs of the organisation and artists are given their dues,” she said.
Lekgaba was quick to clarify that distribution happened in December 2018 so the procedure is that COSBOTS licenses users, then collects royalty fees and log sheets, which are then used to distribute to registered artists. She said in this instance, only artists whose works have been used or played during the distribution period are paid.
Lekgaba said they are aware that there are some instances where some artists complain of non-payment simply because they have registered with the society.
“It is however worth noting that royalty payments are based on usage, not membership, she said adding that just like other users, local radio stations do pay, the only challenge being consistency.
“Broadcasters are expected to pay an annual licence prior to usage and to do annual renewals of their licences. As explained above, some of the radio stations and other users being hospitality establishments, retailers and DJs, may be paying but not on the exact date of expiry of their licences. Some of the users are currently battling with debts of past years for many different reasons e.g. some attribute their non-payment to a down turn in the economy and some to losses in their businesses. This creates difficulties for us as COSBOTS to properly receive and distribute funds to artists on time,” she explained.