South Africa: Ring Tone Firms Given Ultimatum to Pay Royalties

Digital Content

South Africa’s largest association of music publishers and composers is giving reticent ring tone suppliers an ultimatum to pay royalties or face the music. Musicians are resentful that they receive no benefit from the commercial use of their music for cellphone ring tones.

John Fishlock, a director of the National Organisation for Reproduction Rights in Music in Southern Africa , said last week: "We're not here to take people to court but it's been a three-year-long battle to get digital service providers on board legitimately."

The organisation's members include most of the country's major and independent music publishers, such as Universal, EMI, Sony/ATV and Gallo, and composers including David Kramer, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Hugh Masekela and Springbok Nude Girls.

The organisation had instructed commercial law firm Werksmans to issue a letter to the body representing digital services providers, the Wirelesses Applications Service Providers Association (Waspa).

Fishlock said their organisation had requested Waspa to forward correspondence to all its members to whom they had sent download agreements. If they had not signed before the end of last month, they would not enjoy a standard discounted rate.

Further, if they failed to sign, they must cease use of the works and delete them from all media and storage facilities.

Janine Hollesen, the lawyer representing the reproduction rights organisation , said although a number of Waspa members had signed the agreement, there were some who were unenthusiastic about giving composers their due. Hollesen said the Copyright Act made it a criminal offence to knowingly use copyrighted works without authorisation.

Gavin Penkin, Waspa management committee member, said Waspa had forwarded the rights group's proposal and contracts to all its members and had advised its members to make contact with them. "Waspa wishes to stress, however, that it does not negotiate contracts on behalf of its members ," Penkin said.

(souce: Business Day)