What service does RSAU provide to businesses?

Recorded music is increasingly being used to enhance businesses in retail outlets, shopping malls, restaurants, pubs, entertainment spots, public transport sector, broadcasting stations, etc. It is generally accepted worldwide that the use of these recordings as piped background music creates the suitable ambience and entertains patrons, employees and employers alike in the business premises. These recordings whether played from a computer source, jukebox, radio, cassette player, TV, CD player, VCD or DVD player, MP3 player, satellite, internet broadcast or any other analogue or digital medium or format are protected properties of the music producers and performers. Using these recordings in your business premises therefore, requires you to have a communication to the public license. Producers and performers of sound recordings and audio visual works hold the right of remuneration when recordings are used for broadcasting and/or communication to the public. A business broadcasting or involved in communication to the public of any sound recordings and/or audio visual works should then hold an appropriate copyright use license failure to which can cause legal action to recover any damages suffered and/or stop the continued infringement. RSAU is the entity that provides such a license in the Republic of Rwanda

What is Copyright?

Copyright is an exclusive right granted to the authors or creators of “original works”, which works include literary, musical, artistic, cinematograph and sound recordings, both published and unpublished. Copyright does not protect ideas. It only protects the specific and original expression of the idea.

When does Copyright begin?

Copyright protection is automatic. The act of creating and fixing the work also creates the Copyright. There is no requirement to register for Copyright. For example, copyright in musical work and/or sound recording begins automatically once a piece of music is created and recorded (e.g. on video, tape or CD or by simply writing down the notation of a score).

And how long does copyright last?

In Rwanda, copyright holds for the lifetime of the author and fifty years after the death of the author.

What does Copyright afford the owner?

Copyright is an exclusive right and gives the creator or owner of a work a “basket of rights”, which includes, the sole right to reproduce the copyrighted work in any material form, to publish the work, to perform the work in public, to make any cinematograph film or a record in respect of the work, to broadcast or communicate the work to the public by loudspeaker or other similar device, to issue sell or rent copies to the public, etc.

What is RSAU?

RSAU means RWANDAN SOCIETY OF AUTHORS. It is a company limited by guarantee and incorporated under the laws of RWANDA as a not-for-profit company. It is approved by the Rwanda Development Board to operate as the sole Collective Management Organization (CMO), pursuant to Law No. 31/2009 of 26/10/2009 on the Protection of Intellectual Property Law. By the enabling Acts, RSAU is authorized to license the public and commercial use copyrighted works.

Why do I need a RSAU license?

Music like your land, car, mobile phone, etc. is property. It is regarded as Intellectual Property under the law. Just like you will need the permission or authorization of the owner of a property to use his/her property, you are equally required by law to seek the permission or authorization of the owner of the music before you can use his/her music in a public or commercial environment.


When music is therefore performed or used in a public or commercial space, a music copyright license is required. Song writers, composers, performers, publishers and owners of sound recording are entitled to compensations when their works (music) are performed or used in a public or commercial space – it supports their livelihood and enables them to keep producing the good and sweet music that supports many businesses. It is impracticable and near impossible for owners of copyright to monitor the various uses of their works and to license them adequately. It is also impracticable and near impossible for users of music to locate all owners of copyright and negotiate with them. RSAU simplifies this complex process through its collective management of copyright. Without the RSAU license, businesses and facilities that use music in public or commercial space would have to negotiate with every individual song writer, composer, performer and publisher across the country and beyond for every piece of music they intend to use. Your guess is as good as mine, the cost would be astronomical.

How are license fees determined?

The cost of music copyright license depends on various factors: the nature and extent to which music is used, and how many people are exposed to it, the value of music to the trade or business, the monetary advantage obtained from the use of the music, the type of premises, the size of the premises, the type of trade or business, etc. It is worthy of note that RSAU tariffs are regulated by the Copyright Board at Rwanda Development Board.

If I don’t use Rwandan music, do I still have to get a RSAU license?

Yes, you need a RSAU copyright license before you can use any music whether local or foreign. Under the principle of National Treatment for works protected by copyright as enshrined in the Berne Convention, which RWANDA is signatory to, RSAU is obligated to treat foreign works the same way it treats national works. RSAU is also a member of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) – an international organization for performing rights.

Where do the license fees go?

RSAU is a member-based, not-for-profit organization made up of music creators – songwriters, composers, publishers, performers and owners of sound recordings, painters, writers, film makers. All license fees collected (less the administrative costs) are distributed as royalties to the right owners and RSAU affiliates around the world. No individual owns shares in RSAU. RSAU does not declare profit.

We already paid the performer to perform at our event. Why do we have to pay RSAU?

The payment of appearance fees is different from music copyright license fees. When a performer is paid to perform at an event, such payment is only an appearance fee for his services as a performing artiste at the said event, but not for the public performance of the musical work, which may have been created by another person and published by an entity different from the performing artiste. You will require a performing right license from RSAU for the public performance of the works. Performing rights are the right to perform music in public. Performances are considered “public” if they take place in a public place and the audience is outside of a normal circle of family and friends including concerts, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, carnivals, festivals, etc. Public performance also takes place during broadcast on cable television, radio, and any other transmitted performance of a live work. Permission to publicly perform a song must be obtained from RSAU.

I already paid for the CD (or download). So why do I need aRSAU license?

The purchase of an original CD or download of music from a legal and licensed site, gives you ownership of a copy of the work. You may play the CD or music in your home for your enjoyment and that of your family and friends. You may lend the copy to your friend but not for a fee. The moment you begin to play the music in a place open to the public or in a commercial environment, you are going beyond the right of the owner of a copy and enjoying the right of a copyright owner. You are now breaking the law and may have bought for yourself and your place of trade or business a law suit. In order to avoid such a situation, you need a RSAU license, which license allows the public use/performance of music.

I rent out my venue to event organizers. Who is responsible for paying the RSAU License fee?

Both the owner of the venue and the event organizer maybe liable. As an owner or operator of an event center using any form of music whether live or recorded, you are responsible for obtaining the appropriate music copyright license from RSAU, and paying the corresponding fees. If music is used in your venue simply contact RSAU. The event organizer needs to make sure that the venue is fully licensed or he/she maybe liable for copyright infringement. The event organizers are therefore advised to contact RSAU before the use of music.

I already paid for a commercial bouquet for cable reception in my place of business. Do I still need a RSAU license to receive DSTV music programming in rooms or other facilities within the establishment?

Yes, you need a RSAU license. The payment of subscription to receive DSTV signals or any other cable signals is not the same as a music copyright license, to communicate music and sound recordings in public or commercial environment. Anytime music is performed, communicated, played, used or broadcast in a public or commercial environment, a RSAU license is always required. Remember such subscription only gives you the right to receive signals and not the right to publicly or commercially use music.

Employees bring in their own equipment. Do I need a RSAU license for the equipment to be used to play music within my establishment?

The ownership of equipment does not affect the requirement for a music copyright license.  If music is performed in public or in a commercial environment, a music copyright license is required.  The owner of such premises or business may be legally liable for any unlicensed public performances of copyright music that take place on that premises irrespective of who owns the equipment.

Do all performances in the workplace need to be licensed – what about personal stereos and mp3 players?

We advise all businesses using music in the workplace in any way to contact RSAU to discuss their requirement for an appropriate music copyright license.

I am an online music service provider; do I need to obtain a RSAU Music Copyright License?

Yes, you need a RSAU license. At RSAU, we provide licensing solutions to online music service providers, which they may require for their online music service businesses whether it is music downloading (Mechanical Right License) or music streaming (Performing Right License). RSAU continues to champion the respect for use of music in the online/digital environment. You may also be required to get the master recording rights from the owners. Online Music Service Providers are kindly advised to get in touch with our licensing department for appropriate license so that you do not fall foul of the law.

What do you mean by Mechanical Right License and Performing Right License?

The term “mechanical royalties” initially referred to royalties paid whenever a song was reproduced by a mechanical device (One of a copyright owners’ exclusive rights is the right to authorize the reproduction of their works). The term “mechanical royalties” was applied to the reproduction of songs in music boxes, player pianos rolls, and later, phonograph records. This term is still used, and “mechanical royalties” now refers to royalties paid for the reproduction of songs on CD, DAT, audiocassette, flexi-discs, and other devices. A mechanical right license is also required for many digital uses – permanent downloads, limited downloads, on-demand streams, ringtones, ring backs, and more.

Each time a song is performed in public, the composer of the song is entitled to receive royalty income for that public performance. It doesn’t matter whether the song is performed by a live band, or if a recorded version of the song is played, broadcast, communicated, transmitted or streamed. They all qualify as a public performance. That means a song is performed publicly when a recording of it is broadcast on a radio station, when it is played television or as part of a television program or when it is played in a nightclub or when it is streamed online (via the internet) or performed at concerts or events. To comply with the copyright law, the radio station, television network, club, online music service or concert must have a performing rights license authorizing the public performance.

I wasn’t aware of the requirement for a RSAU license

It is the responsibility of the music user to understand and meet their copyright obligations. Operators of Television and Radio stations (both terrestrial and online), communication and telephone companies, Online Music Service, Nightclubs, Hotels, Restaurants and Bars, Event Centers, Shopping Malls and Plaza, Supermarkets, Shops, Hair-dressing Salons and Barber’s shops, Taxi Cabs, Buses and Luxurious Buses, Cinema Halls, Airlines and Airport lounges, Blue Chip Companies and public buildings, etc. are advised to get in touch with RSAU for appropriate license to use music. Deejays, owners of Banking Halls and organizers of musical shows & concerts are equally advised to get in touch with RSAU for appropriate license to use music.

If music is used in your premises or business, it is your responsibility to ensure that the appropriate licenses are in place so that you do not fall foul of the law.

What happens if I don’t get a music copyright license from RSAU?

RSAU takes all reasonable steps to ensure compliance. Failure to obtain a music copyright license for the use of music in public or commercial environment may result in legal action against you for copyright infringement, and you may be liable to pay damages, costs, injunctions, accounts for profits, etc. A music copyright license from RSAU is required by law to use music in public or in a commercial environment.

How do I apply for a RSAU license?

You can submit an application by visiting our office at KG 17 Ave Amahoro National Stadium, Gate 7 by 8am – 4pm (Monday – Thursday) 8am – 12pm (Friday) or visit our website and we shall contact you afterwards to confirm your licensing requirements. Alternatively, please contact our licensing officers on the following lines: +250788261524, +250788759488, or email addresses: rsau.rw@gmail.com

Still have questions? Contact Us