LOCAL artists and creative industry stakeholders are calling for the immediate amendment and endorsement of the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Bill. Speaking at the weekly 'Arts Forum' on Monday, which reviewed the Music Copyright and Neighbouring Right Act, participants pleaded with government to tackle the issue of the Copyright Bill through the Ministry for Industry and Trade, headed by Minister Cyril Chami, as soon as possible. A host of artists who attended at the workshop, sponsored by Best-AC, called for the Ministry for Industry and Trade to finalize the bill and send it to the Parliament in June, this year for endorsement. The artists were very upset with the fact that some criminals were illegally gaining from the fruits of their hard work and called for effective law enforcement and tougher penalties for people convicted of copyright infringement. They lamented the fact that there was still no law put forth, which would see culprits being made to pay heavy fines, arguing that the existing ineffective law should be updated to better protect their works. Gospel singer Stara Thomas blasted the ministry for what she described as 'laxity' in enforcing laws relating to intellectual property rights protection. Veteran musician Kassim Mapili questioned the implementation of the existing law, saying it could as well bite if well enforced. He expressed concerns that law enforcement authority was turning a 'blind eye' to the problem and doing nothing to prevent pirated work and arrest the perpetrators. The Director of Lulu Artist Promoters, Anjelo Luhala said he hoped that this issue would be dealt with as soon as possible because it was now clear that there was a lot of damage being inflicted by the culprits and they would not stop until a law with harsh sentences is put in place. "I am very stressed by this issue, mo re especially because I have on many occasions raised this issue and even talked to the government, but the ministry seems to be dragging its feet while local artists are suffering because of this criminal practice," Luhala lamented. Copyright Society of Tanzania (COSOTA) lawyer Doreen Anthony said the solution to intellectual property rights protection was two-pronged, requiring education as well as enforcement. "Our key role is to identify these deficiencies and advocate to have them corrected," she said. She added: "Some of its provisions must be amended in order to bring Tanzania in line with its international treaty obligations as well as evolving international norms. As it is, it simply does not go far enough to protect creators and producers in the digital environment." Presenting a paper on the copyright law and music income growth in Tanzania, Dr Jehovaness Aikaeli from the Department of Economics of the University of Dar es Salaam estimated that both artists and the government were losing "billions of shillings" per annum as a result of music. He said this showed Tanzania still had much work to do to get its intellectual property rights regime into shape. "Apart from cultural importance, music is a fundamental economic activity for musicians and their professional associates. Gross music sector national income for Tanzania approximated 71bn/- in 2007, almost 0.5 per cent of the country's GDP."