Copyright amendment bill could choke struggling music industry

Already hamstrung by restrictions on gatherings, the music and creative industry will face further challenges if the proposed copyright amendment bill is passed into law, warns Chola Makgamathe, chairperson of the Copyright Coalition of South Africa, set up to address issues that affect the industry.

Government efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which include restricting the number of people at events, have seen the industry buckle.

With a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, earlier restrictions on audience attendance numbers coupled with the recently announced measures makes it almost impossible for artists to earn a living.

Musicians and other artists generate a large proportion of their income from live events.

Their income is supplemented by royalty payments collected on their behalf by organisations such as SAMRO and other similar organisations, said Makgamathe.

Owing to those restrictions, for artists who were barely managing to scrape a living, the business of music is no longer a financially viable career, and some are contemplating leaving the industry altogether, she said.

The copyright legislation in the pipeline is going to take away the little income musicians and other performing artists might be able to generate post lockdown restrictions, said Makgamathe, adding: “If we ever get there”.

“We know that the world of music creators will never be the same again,” she said.

Makgamathe said the proposed legislation “in its current form” will make the industry “purely a labour of love”.

“South Africa has a thriving creative industry across many disciplines. This industry has long and broad value-chains that in turn support other industries,” said Makgamathe, adding that the copyright amendment bill will result in a near-total shutdown of the industry.

She says the country should be thinking of ways to reboot the economy, through every lever “at our disposal”.

“Instead we are busy scoring own-goals and celebrating with the opposing team,” she lamented.

“This move makes no social, legal or economic sense, in order to remedy the flaws that are now contained in this bill, it must be subjected to the proper channels and processes as per the country’s constitution.”

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