Copy­right bill goes too far on roy­al­ties

Not pay­ing roy­al­ties to artists whose work is used in ed­u­ca­tion would threaten liveli­hoods, writes Si­bongile Khu­malo

CityPress - - Voices -

The re­cent pass­ing of Ray Phiri, Wake Mahlobo, Johnny Mekoa and Er­rol Dy­ers has sent shock waves across the in­dus­try. Death tends to do that – even though we know it is an even­tu­al­ity.

As a mu­sic com­poser and per­former, their pass­ing feels even closer to home. It forces one to con­sider one’s own mor­tal­ity. To con­sider that there may not be another chance on that stage. It forces one to think about one’s fam­ily and how one’s chil­dren will fare af­ter one is gone. It is a sober­ing thought.

While I have a re­tire­ment an­nu­ity and I serve on the board of the SA Mu­sic Rights Or­gan­i­sa­tion along­side my peers such as Sipho “Hot­stix” Mabuse, Loy­iso Bala, Arthur Mafokate and Gabi le Roux, and even though my chil­dren are set in their ca­reers, I still re­flect on how quickly things can change in life.

The per­cep­tion is that most per­form­ers lack ed­u­ca­tion and busi­ness acu­men – and I am not even talk­ing about for­mal aca­demic train­ing. The truth is, what­ever one’s level of ed­u­ca­tion, as a prac­ti­tioner in the cre­ative in­dus­try, we have to em­power our­selves with knowl­edge about our in­dus­try if we want to be more than a “one-hit won­der”. It is crit­i­cal.

I grew up in a very mu­si­cal fam­ily. Be­fore his ca­reer as a his­to­rian and mu­sic pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Zu­l­u­land, my fa­ther started out as a choir con­duc­tor, while my mother was a very tal­ented singer only thwarted by a lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties. To top it all, my brother was a jazz devo­tee. Be­fore then, my pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther was a con­certina-play­ing maskandi mu­si­cian. So, mu­sic dom­i­nated our home. From a ten­der age I was al­ready pre­par­ing for what was to come.

I learnt very early the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing my­self and my work in this dy­namic and of­ten un­cer­tain in­dus­try of ours. It is con­se­quently wor­ry­ing to me to learn about the pro­posed Copy­right Amend­ment Bill that has been pre­sented to Par­lia­ment. It is even more chill­ing that many of my peers – young and old – are un­aware of the im­pli­ca­tions should this doc­u­ment be passed into law.

Ed­u­ca­tion is a core pri­or­ity for all of us in so­ci­ety, but I believe the bill goes too far when it says that no roy­al­ties will be paid to us if our cre­ations (be they books, scripts, songs) are used by ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions for their learn­ers. This means that pre­scribed text­books, lyrics, plays, will be copied and used for free with­out any com­pen­sa­tion for the au­thors and com­posers who worked hard to pro­duce th­ese cre­ative works.

Many cre­ators work hard to see the day when their work is recog­nised and made ac­ces­si­ble to stu­dents of the art form. But surely not with­out any com­pen­sa­tion? How can we let the bill pass with­out a fight?

In other sec­tions, the bill gives users of mu­sic, such as broad­cast­ers, sim­i­lar rights to my­self, the artist who wrote and recorded the mu­sic. How can this be? How can a user of my mu­sic share in roy­alty pay­ments earned by the mu­sic that I wrote and/or recorded even though they did not sit through late nights and early morn­ings strug­gling to write the mu­sic or strug­gling to get the right tune in the stu­dio? What does it mean for my liveli­hood?

For this rea­son, I main­tain that it is crit­i­cal that we ed­u­cate our­selves as mu­si­cians and per­form­ers. We can­not ex­ist only to be ex­ploited.

There are sev­eral au­thors, aca­demics and or­gan­i­sa­tions act­ing on be­half of cre­ators and their rep­re­sen­ta­tives who have come to­gether to form the SA Copy­right Al­liance to specif­i­cally con­front the threat posed by the Copy­right Amend­ment Bill. I salute and sup­port them and urge the pub­lic, par­tic­u­larly those of us with an in­ter­est in the growth and well­be­ing of our beau­ti­ful cre­ative econ­omy, to sup­port us on this very per­ti­nent is­sue.

Mu­sic has brought me and my fam­ily bound­less joy and satisfaction over the years, but it comes our way af­ter much hard work. It is for this very rea­son that I believe that we, as artists, should be re­warded for the ef­fort we put into cre­at­ing the mu­sic and lit­er­a­ture en­joyed by all.

Khu­malo is an award-win­ning singer and pro­ducer. She is also deputy chair­per­son of the board of the SA Mu­sic

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Si­bongile Khu­malo

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