Cablegate: Grammy Winner Joins Call for Mali to Defend Ipr

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1.(U) Summary: Prominent Malian musicians, including Grammy
winner Toumani Diabate, have joined politicians to attack the
GOM's failure to protect intellectual property rights (IPR).
On a November 30 session in the National Assembly, Minister
of Culture Cheick Oumar Sissoko was grilled on government
efforts - or the lack thereof - to prevent music piracy and
prosecute IPR pirates. Sissoko identified IPR protections as
priority number one when named Minister in 2002, but after
five years there have been no major convictions and piracy
apparently is on the rise. Sissoko blames security officials
who do not take copyright infringements seriously and judges
unwilling to impose fines or prison terms for IPR violations.
For Malian musicians, the bureaucratic infighting is just
the latest example of government unwillingness to crack down
on the piracy industry. End Summary.

What Have You Done Lately?

2.(U) On November 30 National Assembly Deputy Yacouba
Bagayogo traded barbs with Minister of Culture Cheick Oumar
Sissoko over the GOM's efforts to combat copyright
infringement and music piracy. Reminding Sissoko that he had
identified IPR protections as his number one issue and
promised tangible results within six months of becoming
Minister in 2002, Bagayogo asserted that Sissoko had
abandoned Malian artists and Malian culture. "What have you
really done," asked Bagayogo, "to prevent the pirating of
works by our artists?" Malian artists, said Bagayogo, "are
unhappy with the Ministry of Culture for having failed to
better protect their works against piracy." Bagayogo accused
the Ministry of wasting money on numerous cultural festivals
throughout Mali instead of working to prevent piracy.

3.(U) Sissoko, who as a professional film-maker was
victimized by copyright infringement, sought to shift the
spotlight to the Ministries of Security and Justice and to
the National Assembly. Piracy is a crime and the judiciary
is responsible for law enforcement, said Sissoko, who added
that the Ministry of Culture had no ability to influence how
judges interpreted copyright law. He suggested that the
National Assembly could "clean up" some of the laws regarding
intellectual piracy.

4.(U) In a meeting with the Embassy at his National Assembly
office on December 7, Bagayogo refused to let Sissoko off the
hook. "Flagrant piracy in Mali is an affront to Malian
culture," said Bagayogo. He complained that since a
high-profile raid in June 2005 that yielded 90,000 pirated
cassettes but no arrests, the GOM has done nothing to prevent
the spread of pirated cassettes, CDs and DVDs. "Why no
prosecutions?" he asked, "Why not show those caught on
television like they do for other criminals?" When the
police do arrest someone for piracy, he complained, judges
release them almost immediately even though piracy is
punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison. Bagayogo rejected
Sissoko's recommendation to the National Assembly to refine
copyright law. "New laws would be pointless because they
wouldn't be applied," he said. "We need to implement the
laws we already have." Asked why he compelled the Minister
of Culture to testify before the Assembly on what appears in
many respects to be a legal and security issue, Bagayogo
said: "If the security forces aren't doing their job, the
Minister of Culture needs to tell them to get to work."

Existing Laws Not Enforced

5.(SBU) Despite their pointed exchange on the Assembly
floor, Bagayogo and Sissoko seemed to agree that the police,
customs agents and judges are not enforcing existing
copyright laws, a view also shared by private IPR attorneys.
One such lawyer who is handling 14 on-going IPR cases,
commented that IPR law is too complex and judges do not fully
understand it. Judges also have a wide range of flexibility
when handing down sentences or fines. Since many judges
regard copyright infringement crimes as "trivial," pirates
are either released or given suspended sentences without jail
time or fines. Officials at the Malian Copyright Office
(Bureau Malien du Droit d'Auteur or BUMDA), which falls under
the Ministry of Culture and represents roughly 1600 Malian
artists, echoed these complaints as well.

6.(SBU) BUMDA officials complained that numerous training
and informational programs for police and customs officials
of IPR related issues had failed to fix coordination problems
with security officials. BUMDA's primary role is to support
Malian artists and ensure that they receive royalty payments
from local and international media, but the Culture Minister
Sissoko tasked the BUMDA with organizing at least 7 piracy

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raids or seizures per quarter. Last quarter, BUMDA officials
claimed they conducted 12 raids, but characterized their
efforts as minor, since they have only one vehicle to cover
all of Mali, are not paid to work at night when most pirates
operate, and coordination between the BUMDA and law
enforcement is poor. BUMDA must file a request with the
police to conduct a raid on music pirates; by the time the
request is granted and the police are prepared to move,
someone has invariably tipped off the pirating ring.

The Piracy Lobby and Private Radio

7.(SBU) Complicating any attempt to crack down on IPR
violations is the emergence of music pirates as an
increasingly organized and formidable sector of the local
economy. "I can understand why our politicians are doing
nothing," said world-famous singer Salif Keita in October
during a blistering critique of the GOM, "because those who
are pirating music are also their constituents." 2006 Grammy
winner (Best Traditional World Music Album) Toumani Diabate
believes the Malian piracy industry is too organized and
entrenched within the local economy to be affected by the
GOM's half-hearted attempts to prevent music piracy, even
though "Everyone knows who the pirates are." Diabate
suggested that Malian artists should bypass the GOM
altogether and negotiate some kind of revenue sharing
agreement with the piracy industry directly.

8.(SBU) The economic and political strength of the local
piracy industry frustrates officials at the BUMDA. The June
2005 raid that netted over 90,000 counterfeit cassettes but
no arrests served as a rude awakening--for the BUMDA.
Following the raid, a suspected pirate even filed suit in
civil court seeking over CFA 500 million in damages
(approximately USD 1 million or more than five times the
BUMDA's annual budget allocation from the GOM). The case has
noy yet gone to trial. Lawyers for BUMDA say claims by IPR
violators that they are adding money and jobs to the local
economy are not easily dismissed by politicians seeking to
secure their electoral base.

9.(U) A separate dilemma for the BUMDA and Malian artists
involves public and private radio. The BUMDA receives CFA 5
million (about USD 10,000) from the ORTM (Mali's national
television and radio station) each year in return for the
rights to play music and show videos, but ORTM pays no
additional royalties. The ORTM maintains that this amount,
which has not changed since the early 1980s, is sufficient
because the ORTM is supporting artists by exposing their
music and videos to a wider audience. The recording artists
see it differently: "The ORTM," said Toumani Diabate, "uses
my music for commercials for food and beauty products" but
pays Diabate nothing in return.

10.(U) Private and local radio stations pose as large a
problem: there are more than one hundred private radio
stations in Mali thanks in large part to the GOM's aggressive
decentralization program. BUMDA charges they not only
refused pay for the rights to play music by Malian artists
but were, in some cases, actively copying and distributing

Comment: A Question of Priorities

11.(SBU) Bureaucratic squabbles between the Ministries of
Culture, Justice and Security over the protection of IPR only
obscure the greater issue for Malian musicians: continued
losses in revenue due to copyright infringements. "In Mali,"
said Salif Keita in October, "we create police squads to
combat cigarette smuggling but never think of fighting
against music piracy. This upsets me because Malian music is
suffering from this plague." For the BUMDA, the Minister of
Culture and private sector IPR advocates, the finger points
squarely at the security and justice officials to enforce
already existing IPR laws. Unusual for the developing world,
the international prominence of Malian musicians makes IPR a
local issue. Pressure exerted by Diabete, Keita, and others
is growing, and may yet force the GOM to take a stand.

© Scoop Media

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