In the last few weeks astute members in the music industry would have been following the dispute with a local mobile operator and CAPASSO, the Jozi-based mechanical rights licensing agency, whose job it is to collect and distribute royalties to its members, music publishers and composers.
The important point here is, artists need to be familiar with the collection agencies, what they do, who they represent, and how you, as an artist, can continue to derive passive earnings for years to come from the work you’ve created.
CAPASSO licenses the reproduction and reformatting of musical works. This is because mechanical right (which forms part of copyright) is raised whenever a reproduction (copy) or format transfer takes place. CAPASSO is authorised, by way of mandate from its members, to issue such mechanical rights licenses, collect the license fees and distribute them, as royalties, back to their members.
The question here is: What are mechanical rights?
When it comes to music, there are several different rights that exist in any musical work or recording. Collectively, these are known as copyright. Yes, copyright is made up of several other rights, including, for example, performing rights, which are administered by SAMRO (The South African Music Rights Organisation) and master rights, which enjoy a separate copyright. And the record company, if there is one, potentially owns the actual sound recording?
CAPASSO only administers the mechanical right in the composition copyright consideration, i.e. the right that arises when a musical work is reproduced, or transferred from one format to another (for example; from a master tape to a CD).
There are many more instances of when a mechanical right arises: when promotional CDs are pressed, when an MP3 is purchased for download from an online music store by a user, when videos are put onto the correct format for broadcasting, or when music is attached to television programming…and these are just a few examples of just how this convoluted world is weaved together.
Remember, a license – or permission – from the copyright owner (represented by CAPASSO in this instance) must be obtained before any transfer takes place.
“For every song you hear, there is the original composition created when the music and lyrics are written (notes, chords etc.),” says CAPASSO CEO Nothando Migogo. “This is the copyright CAPASSO represents.
When this composition is then performed in a studio and recorded, a second copyright is born. The record label usually owns this. Because these are two different copyrights, both need authorisation before a third party can sell the song, and that is the crux of the MTN matter.
“The existence of these two separate copyrights is shown by the existence of two separate sub-sectors in the music industry,” he adds. “The owners of the composition (songwriters and publishers) and owners of the sound recording (record labels).”
If every artist understood these points, the music business would be a far healthier state. To quote actor Brad Pitt; “Ideals are peaceful, history is violent.” Not that violence will solve any of these problems, but education certainly will. And therein lies the rub: education is power and artists need to arm themselves with the knowledge, irrespective of the genre of music they play in. The basic rules remain the same.
Gig of the week
Desmond & The Tutus have been scare-crowing across the world’s stages with their unique, some might call it niche, brand of kwela-indie-punk for just on ten years. To call it niche would be entirely missing the point, though; the Tutus are more shape-shifters than niche, their sound slotting comfortably between Thandiswe Mazwai and Hugh Masekela.
They will be at The Assembly (61 Harrington Street) on Friday, February 26 from 9pm.
Tickets priced at R80 can be booked at www.webtickets.co.za, or at the door from 9pm.