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Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Musicians petition the Minister of Trade and Industry to change copyright law.

The Performers Organisation of South Africa Trust (POSA) has launched a petition calling on the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies, to amend the copyright legislation to allow about R80-million in unpaid Needletime royalties to be paid out to the country’s recording artists and record companies.

In a bid to ensure the free flow of Needletime Rights royalties, POSA, led by Sibongile Khumalo, is urging recording artists, interested parties and individuals to sign its online petition – available at or on POSA’s Facebook page – to urge the Minister to amend the copyright legislation to remove the legal loopholes and ensure that the country’s musicians finally receive income due to them from the public usage of their recordings.

Needletime Rights royalties are royalties due to musicians/recording artists and record companies whose recordings are broadcast, or performed in public – for example, on radio stations.

Although the Copyright Act and Performers Protection Act were amended in 2002, and the Regulations on the Establishment of Collecting Societies in the Music Industry came into effect in 2006, no Needletime royalties have been paid out. This is due to an ongoing impasse involving the South African Music Performance Rights Association (SAMPRA), which was accredited to administer Needletime Rights on behalf of record companies, on the one hand, and POSA and the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (CIPRO) on the other.

SAMPRA is meant to administer the 50% portion of Needletime royalties due to record companies, while POSA is accredited to administer the 50% share of such royalties for its members who performed on the sound recordings in question. SAMPRA is mandated to license and collect money from music users, on the understanding that it has the obligation to pass over the recording artists’ share to POSA to be distributed to those recording artists POSA represents.

SAMPRA interprets the law as saying that they have to pay over the recording artists’ share of royalties to record companies, and not to POSA. SAMPRA insists that record companies can decide on a different split and they also have the right to deduct whatever expenses, including advances paid to recording artists, from the artists’ share of the Needletime Rights royalties.

However, POSA and CIPRO disagree, arguing that SAMPRA should only distribute to record companies their 50% share and that record companies do not have the right to deduct anything, including advances, from recording artists’ share of the royalties. Furthermore, POSA and CIPRO maintain that the share of royalties belonging to POSA members should be paid by SAMPRA to POSA, which will then distribute the money to the relevant recording artists.

This state of affairs led to CIPRO threatening to withdraw SAMPRA’s accreditation in January 2010, which in turn resulted in SAMPRA taking CIPRO and the Minister to court. The court case is still ongoing, and POSA fears that a lengthy and complex court battle could take several more years to resolve – during which time musicians and recording artists will continue to be unfairly deprived of their Needletime royalties.

More than R80-million in Needletime royalties has been collected to date by SAMPRA and recording artists’ share, after the 50% share is paid to record companies and SAMPRA deducts its administrative expenses, would come to not less than R35-million.

Says the POSA Board of Trustees: “To our mind, this has become a human rights issue. The income of hard-working and long-suffering recording artists is now compromised by an ambiguous and vague piece of legislation that does not seem concerned with the welfare of those it sought to benefit. While the wrangling continues, it is the smaller man – the hard-working recording artist, the driver of the music industry – who, to all intents and purposes, suffers.”

POSA is a Trust established to administer Needletime Rights on behalf of SAMRO’s members who are recording artists/musicians.