Malawi implements private copying levy
10 May 2019
Malawi is the latest African country to implement a private copying levy.
This development means Malawi is now among the growing list of countries to deploy a private copying levy, a government-mandated scheme in which a special tax is charged on purchases of recordable media such as blank CDs, hard drives and memory sticks.
Prior to the implementation, attempts had been resisted by the Information and Communications Technology Association of Malawi (ICTAM), as the body started a campaign to prevent the activation of the levy. In a statement released in March, ICTAM queried plans by the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) through the Malawi Revenue Authority to place a 5% levy on media storage devices.
"At such a time as a country, we need policies that promote the use and adoption of the ICT services, the introduction of the private copying levy is not only taking this country steps back in terms of the development and promotion of the usage of ICT but hindering the very efforts of making ICT universally accessible," the querying body wrote.
"Information and communication technologies can help accelerate progress towards every single one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as pointed out by the special report by the International Telecommunications Union, and yet with such levies enforced we feel will only derail the country’s effort in ICT development."
The issue was resolved following several engagements between with COSOMA and ICTAM, with the involvement of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), which offered its support by producing a statement informing the resisting body of the benefits of the levy to Malawi's creative industry. The statement addressed three key areas.
CISAC explained first that 75% of the private copying levy would go to the creators as payment for the work produced and 25% of the collection funds to cultural projects like training events and capacity building, as well as the funding of art schools or festivals, the safeguarding of national heritage assets and traditional cultural expressions.
CISAC also noted that a private copying levy had been put in place in the EU "in principle and in practice" and backed by the European legal system. Finally, the body said there were no significant costs to be carried by Malawi's technology space as a result of the levy, considering the profit margin on the sales of copy-enabling devices.
The success of the negotiations leads to Malawi joining Ghana, Algeria, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Cape Verde and Botswana as African countries that have instated a private copying levy.
"This important achievement was possible also thanks to the engagement of the Malawian government, which approved the necessary regulations to implement the remuneration last year," CISAC said in a statement.