Miriam Makeba copyright dispute

2014-03-23 10:00

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The estate of late singer Miriam Makeba is taking legal action against the organisers of landmark exhibition Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and ­Bureaucracy of Everyday Life.

The exhibition is at Joburg’s Museum Africa on its fourth leg following successful runs in Munich, Milan and New York.

Graeme Gilfillan, a trustee of the ZM Makeba Trust, has written a letter of demand to the exhibition’s organisers, the International Center for Photography (ICP), accusing them of violating copyright law by commercially showing images bearing Makeba’s likeness without the trust’s written consent.

The challenge encompasses the ­numerous portrayals of Makeba in ­photographs on exhibition, but in particular the use of a photograph taken by veteran photographer Jürgen Schadeberg.

The picture showing a young Makeba in a tight orange dress standing at a microphone was taken in 1955 for Drum ­magazine.

In the letter, Gilfillan, an international copyright law specialist, claims that “Schadeberg’s ownership of the photographs [the actual negatives] of Makeba is not in ­question.”

His charge relates to the exploitation of Makeba’s image contained in the photographs. This ­includes the enlarging, exhibiting or commercialising of these pictures.

Such photographs may only be used under “fair dealing”.

The law defines fair dealing to ­include purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship or research.

Schadeberg told City Press that he “owns the copyright and is the author of all his images ... Makeba posed for the image and gave her full permission for use in documentary non­commercial material. In the case of the show, Schadeberg received no fee from the ICP for showing his images.”

Gilfillan says he “had meetings with Schadeberg about this when Makeba was still alive”.

“He knows our position.”

Asked what outcome he was hoping for, Gilfillan said: “A lot of this is about the Makeba Trust being credited.”

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