OPEN LETTER TO THE MINISTER OF ARTS AND CULTURE IN RELATION TO AUTHOR’S RIGHTS ISSUES IN CAMEROON AND THE SITUATION OF SONACAM

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MINISTER OF ARTS AND CULTURE
MINISTER OF ARTS AND CULTURE

After more than 30 years of instability in the authors rights sector in Cameroon, we all jubilated in 2017 when SONACAM was created, and we all hoped IT WAS A PERMANENT SOLUTION and would yield better results. Three years later, as we are ready to hear what the society has to offer as its report.

The Minister calls for a meeting requiring the organization of the Society’s General Assembly scheduled for 24th October at the Yaoundé Conference Hall, to be inclusive, as well as creating special commissions to organize the event, update the society’s member list, and to update the organization’s statutes, electoral code, and internal rules and regulations.

While we understand the minister’s quest for peace, reconciliation, and competence in the Music sector, we will like to bring the following points to his attention

A CASE FOR SONACAM

If Mr. Sam Fan Thomas and his Board of Directors have not done a good job, it should rest on the members of SONACAM, to vote them out, and get in new leadership to steer the ship. The Cameroon Copyright Law Clearly States and The doors of SONACAM have always been open to all artists to register and benefit from the fullness of SONACAM membership. By accepting to bring in non-members of SONACAM to its general Assembly and giving them voting rights; the Minister has fallen in the trap of those who debate that the Cameroon government doesn’t have respect for copyright institutions. If any artist refuses to register as a member of SONACAM; that artist is free to administer their rights themselves without hindering the operations of SONACAM.

While it may be too late to call on the minister to reconsider his position, the best option would be for the minister to request that all those who wish to participate in the SONACAM General Assembly must pass by the SONACAM offices and register themselves. Through this we can be sure to have an inclusive and peaceful process; otherwise may lead to thirty more years of instability in the sector as those who dully followed all the regulations and paid all dues to SONACAM will feel cheated.

On the other hand, we must congratulate the minister for refusing to change the name of SONACAM as some people had wanted. These constant name changes don’t play well against us in our relations with consumers of music and our international relations.

We also request that conditions for becoming part of the national list of musicians should be made clear and public so that those who for one reason or the other have not registered can comply before the said assembly.

We also request that All Internal rules, election code, and similar documents should be published on the SONACAM Website for access by members (and in this case, all drafts should be made public at least 14 days before the general assembly so that artists can evaluate and make necessary contributions.

A CASE AGAINST MEMBERS OF FOREIGN SOCIETIES

A good number of the people invited by the minister to join this general assembly are registered members of SACEM (FRANCE) and other foreign societies and through their membership, these foreign societies control the author’s rights of these artists in all territories of the world including Cameroon.

With or without SONACAM, these artists continue to receive their royalties; and that is why they use Cameroon and SONACAM as their playground and careless of what happens to the majority of artists who solely depend on SONACAM.

It is inadmissible, that people who do not rely on SONACAM for their Income be put in charge of SONACAM. They will never manage it well. Hence, we call on the Minister of Arts and Culture and his Committee on Organizing SONACAM Texts to indicate that any member of SONACAM who is a member of a foreign performance Rights Organization, cannot be elected into the board of directors

A CASE FOR THE YOUTH

It is worth noting that more than 70% of all music consumed in Cameroon in the past 10 years is music made by young people, these young musicians also generate majority of the author’s rights income both nationally and in foreign territories; How come they don’t make up majority of the decision makers. How come in the ministers meeting almost everyone was above 35 years of age.

Every young musician knows the older generation because we grew up listening to their songs, but most old people don’t know the younger generation; and yet in the committee of identification of musicians, Majority are the same old people, who will end up sidelining hard-working young people.

We hereby call on the committee organizing the SONACAM Texts to include that – Any region that has more than 1 administrator should have at least 1 youth (below the age of 35)

Today’s world is technology Driven; and young people are masters of the technology field. With the use of technology not only can we be able to have effective management of author’s rights but we can be able to generate more income; which will benefit all rights owners in Cameroon especially the old. As young people, we care for our old, and all we want is for every author and composer to be justly remunerated for their works.

Everybody is important, but none is indispensable. To assume that a few people are the only competent people to handle something in a whole country like Cameroon is a big mistake. Cameroon has a good number of young competent people who can do a great job, in updating the SONACAM Repertoire, in Effective management, in negotiating and maintaining reciprocal agreements and especially with impeccable integrity, void of any corrupt pasts and with the necessary energy to get things done. It will be an injustice to our heritage not to engage these young people.

To conclude, we are at a critical point in time for the future of the Cameroon Music Industry as a whole, and any further instability in the Author’s rights sector not only is a big loss financially and culturally for us, but may also cause instability in the current process of restructuring the sector through the new Law on Artistic and Cultural Associations, which may end of discrediting all the ministers efforts for the past years as well.

Cordially

Verkijika Divine Nyuyki

(Dyllann)

All Co-Signatories can be found at

http://chng.it/dStpJ9GKjJ

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