Team Real Change: Towards a better, ethical and effective COSBOTS

The Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS) presents a golden opportunity to turn around the fortunes of the creative sector in Botswana in an unprecedented way.
Incorporated in 2008 as a Private Company limited by guarantee, COSBOTS is mandated by the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act CAP 68:02 to among others license and collect royalties from users of copyright works such as radio stations and television for distribution to copyright owners such as musicians, film makers and writers.
The organisation controls the right to diffuse or play both local and foreign music by individuals and business establishments and grants licences to those who need to exploit or use protected works in any manner. It is further empowered to control the right to publicly display or use non-music protected works such as paintings, sculptures, engravings and works of applied art by business establishments.
Royalties is a multi-billion Pula industry that has to put money in the hands of the creative sector and grow Botswana’s national economy. According to the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers’ (CISAC) 2016 Global Collections Report, over P103 billion worth of royalties was collected in 2015 in 239 member societies, which represent over four million creators of music, audiovisual works, drama, literature and visual arts in 123 countries. The report shows that total royalties have grown for the third year in a row, up 8.9 percent from 2014.
Music collections accounted for nearly 90 percent of this figure (over P90 billion) and increased 8.5 percent year on year. Other repertoires also experienced strong growth with audiovisual royalties up 15.1 percent and royalties for visual art increasing 27.4 percent. Collections from digital services jumped 21.4 percent but account for only 7.2 percent of total royalties collected worldwide. For these numbers to mean anything to the creator in Botswana, we need a COSBOTS that has effective systems that capture the value of our works and require those who benefit from them to pay us fairly.
The positive health of the creative industries and the ability of creators to make a living from their work is of vital importance to culture as well as to the economy. Unfortunately, creators are confronted with a COSBOTS that is inundated by reports of maladministration and rampant corruption, which have resulted in the institution of a forensic audit. Members’ trust in the board is at an all-time low. Members have a litany of complaints relating to failures and breakdowns in the delivery of the very reason for COSBOTS’ existence – monitoring, collection and distribution of royalties to rights holders. The situation calls for transformational leadership that will employ an effective and timely turnaround strategy for the society to optimally serve its members.
COSBOTS has been compromised by several questionable actions taken by the last board as well as its CEO starting with the conflict of interest in the awarding of the monitoring tender to a company owned by a sitting chairman of the board, to the purchase of a building in excess of P3 million without consulting members. This is part of a long trend of questionable financial decisions. The board of COSBOTS has failed creators and brought the industry into disrepute.
We need a COSBOTS board capable industry leaders who place a huge premium on such values as integrity, transparency, fairness, accountability and ethical corporate governance to deliver on the society’s mandate to set rates, monitor, collect and distribute royalties to rights holders. We need a COSBOTS board that is focused on Good Corporate Governance, Strategic Wealth Creation, Artists Welfare and Members Empowerment. The society is dying for renewal through improvement of relations with stakeholders such as copyright users (radio stations, promoters) through a coherent and consistent stakeholder engagement strategy.
There is ample evidence of strained relationships between COSBOTS and copyright users/clients. There is need to prioritize improving such relations because when all stakeholders understand their role in helping COSBOTS achieve its mandate, royalties income for artists is maximized. There is need for an efficient and effective monitoring and management system to ensure transparency and fairness in the distribution of royalties to rights holders. At the moment, members do not know how COSBOTS arrive at the monies it distributes to them. A lot of them do not receive their royalties despite their music playing on radio stations all day. Sadly these are failures of the system being employed by the company of the former board chairman. The society should also be seen to be working hard to develop sustainable markets and audiences for right holders to earn increased value from their works. There is a lot of growth potential in actively pursuing strategic business partnerships with the public and private sectors in Botswana and internationally.
Artists welfare should be at the heart of the COSBOTS turnaround strategy. Members need a Deed of Trust which will be funded through undistributed royalties to ensure that members have access to services such as medical aid, life insurance cover and funeral cover. Members have to be empowered to sustainably produce works of high value and to develop leadership skills that will drive growth of the arts sector. There is need to put in place a robust Arts Advocacy Program to push for the recognition and support of the arts in both the private ad public sectors. Through this program, COSBOTS can actively push for the increase of the local content quota on Botswana radio stations and television to ensure that the bulk of royalties stay in Botswana and benefit the majority of the creative sector here and other allied industries.
Authored by Team Real Change (Shabba Kgotlaetsho, a founder director of COSBOTS, Tomeletso Sereetsi, a musician, author and publisher, Game Zeus Bantsi, a musician and Film Producer, Sydney “Dj Boogie Sid” Nzala, and Jimmy Moyambo, a musician, educator and entrepreneur)