Artists feel the pinch of new copyright bill

Yvonne Chaka Chaka. Picture: Supplied

Yvonne Chaka Chaka. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 4, 2024


A section of the South African music and publishing industry has voiced its dissatisfaction with some sections of the Copyright Amendment Bill and Performers Protection Amendment Bill and wants President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene.

In an open letter to the president, South Africa’s music icon Yvonne Chaka Chaka laments the issue of fair use and other key aspects of the bill.

Despite strong opposition from the arts and creative industries, the National Assembly passed the controversial Copyright Amendment Bill on Friday, March 1.

The singer and activist says the bill will reverse the gains made by the industry and other art practitioners, which is why she has decided to write to Parliament.

“I was right. On Thursday, the MPs, particularly, members of your party, the party of Nelson Mandela, Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, voted to pass a bill that will reverse what these luminaries and many others fought and died for.

“Their vote is a drastic decision that will set this country back many years as a country. The two bills they passed, will, in my view, put them, individually and collectively, in direct conflict with the Constitution of the country, which all of them took oath to protect,“ she said.

Last week, author and academic Zakes Mda slammed the bill, saying it will have dire consequences for the publishing industry.

“This bill if it becomes law is going to be very harmful to me as an individual artist and writer. It is also going to be harmful to the publishing industry in general. Not just for educational purposes but the sector as a whole. As an artist who creates works that are consumed internationally, I publish my books in South Africa first to ensure that if international agents want to license my books, they first pay for the country licensing fees. If this bill comes into law my books will not be protected,” Mda had told Newzroom Afrika.

At the centre of discomfort for the artists is the issue of fair use, which allows people free access to published works among other things.

“Except that’s not what these bills are truly about. Yes of course, they will make content freely available for educational purposes, but in doing so, will be exposing content producers and creators to ruin. In one fell swoop, when they passed these bills on Thursday, they took from a lot of struggling artists, authors, performers and creators in the name of giving to the poor.

“Even worse than that, they sent a message to foreign investors to look elsewhere to sow their money. Because no content creators are going to come to South Africa, especially that town where they set on Thursday afternoon, Cape Town, to make movies and documentaries only to be told that all their investment can be used without compensation,“ Chaka Chaka writes in her letter.

The “Umqombothi” singer said the hard work that artists put behind their work would be in vain due to the new legislation.

“I know myself and many other performers, artists and creators put our lives and livelihoods under threat when in the dark days of apartheid we supported the struggle for freedom through song, book, theatre and art. We did that because we knew the Struggle was just and freedom would be for all, not some,” she said.

Speaking to The Star, Collen Dlamini, who represents the Copyright Coalition, said the government failed to consult with the industries.

“The passing of this bill has been flawed on so many levels. Government failed to consult with the industry. We are not being listened to and the Copyright Amendment Bill is silent on the issues of artificial intelligence as well as the issue of piracy, which are some of the biggest issues affecting the industry,” Dlamini said.

The Star

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