WIPO ADR Stories: Alternative Dispute Resolution – A Game-Changer for Copyright and Entertainment Disputes in Africa
In Africa, disputes over intellectual property (IP) rights are a common occurrence in the entertainment industry, especially when it comes to copyright infringement and contractual disagreements between artists and production companies. However, mediation is becoming a popular way to resolve these disputes. This game-changing approach is being encouraged by Copyright Offices and sector organizations
who recognize the needs of users in this region.
Copyright Offices in Africa and their support to ADR for copyright disputes
The role of Copyright Offices in Africa is significant as they promote the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options. In doing so, parties in the entertainment industry can resolve their disputes more efficiently and cost-effectively compared to traditional legal proceedings. Several Copyright Offices in Africa now provide dispute resolution services for copyright and related-rights matters, with some collaborating with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (WIPO Center). For instance, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC)1 and the WIPO Center jointly offer mediation services to copyright owners, users, collective management organizations (CMOs), and other interested parties for a quick and cost-effective resolution of disputes.
To increase awareness of the benefits of ADR, NCC and the WIPO Center have been delivering mediation training to the industry’s actors and their legal practitioners. Industry organizations such as the Nigerian Music Industry Coalition and the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) have supported these initiatives. The Nigerian film industry, also known as “Nollywood”, is the second-largest film industry globally in terms of production volume, producing over 2,500 films annually, estimated to be worth over USD 5 billion in revenue. Despite its growth, Nollywood still faces significant challenges, including disputes related to IP, copyright infringement, contractual breaches, online piracy, royalties, and digital distribution. Therefore, NCC works to address these challenges by promoting copyright registration and collective management systems while collaborating with stakeholders to strengthen the enforce ment of copyright laws. Along these lines, NCC, with the continuous support of the WIPO Center, promotes mediation to resolve industry disputes. .
In Kenya, the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) mediates copyright disputes in the audiovisual, publishing, and music sectors. KECOBO is staffed by lawyers well-versed in mediating copyright disputes. KECOBO and the WIPO Center have teamed up to promote ADR and mediation for IP disputes in Kenya, providing parties with efficient and effective ways to resolve disputes outside of court. By working together, they aim to provide a comprehensive and seamless ADR process, reducing the time, cost, and stress of traditional court proceedings.
Similarly, the Copyright Society of Tanzania (COSOTA), as an organization dedicated to protecting the rights of authors and creators, offers ADR services for the resolution of copyright- and content-related disputes. COSOTA collaborates with the WIPO Center to promote ADR and mediation in Tanzania’s copyright sector, providing an alternative for individuals and organizations looking to settle copyright disputes outside of the court system.
Furthermore, WIPO has worked with the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority of Botswana (CIPA) to provide mediation and arbitration training to Office staff, enabling them to offer dispute resolution services for copyright disputes in their respective countries. The African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO)2 encourages its member states to offer ADR services and collaborates with the WIPO Center in delivering training for their officials.
In recent years, sector organizations including CMOs such as the Ghana Music Rights Organization (GHAMRO), the Copyright Society of Liberia (COSOL), the Namibian Society of Composer and Authors of Music (NASCAM), the Uganda Performing Right Society (UPRS), and the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (ZIMURA) have also participated in WIPO training sessions to better understand the benefits of using ADR for copyright disputes, enhancing their capabilities to strategically select suitable dispute resolution options when facing disputes.
The use of ADR, specifically mediation, has proven to be a powerful solution for settling copyright disputes in Africa. This approach, which involves the joint efforts of governments and copyright actors, with the support of international institutions like the WIPO Center, is instrumental in promoting the use of mediation in this field. By doing so, it helps to avert costly legal battles while safeguarding the rights of artists and creators.
To assist the creative industries in resolving disputes through WIPO mediation and arbitration, the WIPO Center offers free of charge online orientation sessions to creators and entrepreneurs. These sessions can be booked using the virtual calendar offered by the WIPO Center.
WIPO ADR services for copyright disputes
The WIPO Center collaborates with Member States’ IP and Copyright Offices, as well as CMOs, to promote ADR to prevent and resolve copyright disputes. This includes:
- raising awareness of ADR
- supporting the implementation of ADR services as indicated by national or regional legislation
- assisting with ADR case administration (including co-administration, training of mediator and arbitrators and online case administration tools)
Examples of how WIPO Mediation can be used in copyright- and content-related matters:
- if you are negotiating a contract with another party (e.g., a copyright license), you can invite the other party to use WIPO Mediation to discuss the terms of the contract;
- if you discover an infringement of your rights, before starting legal proceedings, you can invite the other party to use WIPO Mediation to try to resolve the dispute amicably;
- if you discover that you may have infringed other parties’ rights, and you are interested in regularizing this situation, you can invite the other party to use WIPO Mediation to try to resolve the dispute amicably (e.g., to obtain a license);
- if you are involved in a dispute with another party, even if the dispute has already been referred to the courts, you can invite the other party to use WIPO Mediation to resolve the dispute in a confidential and time- and cost-efficient manner; or
- any other commercial dispute related to copyright.
WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center