Give unknown musos the credit they deserve

2017-09-10 06:00
Ntombizodwa Makhoba

Ntombizodwa Makhoba

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It has become the norm for established artists to steal from those trying to break into the industry. Most of these as yet unknown artists compose their songs in tiny back-room studios, forking out every last cent to come up with a finished product. They use word of mouth to market their music in taxi ranks and sell their CDs.

These artists are seldom credited for their hard work. Many of the smash hits we hear on the radio today have been written or produced by new artists we haven’t heard of before. Sadly, most of these artists’ names do not even make it onto the CD sleeve, depriving them of the exposure they desperately need. Surely credit must be given where it is due.

To our established artists, here is my plea – if you hear a song or a beat that you wish was yours, the honourable thing to do is negotiate a collaboration rather than steal someone else’s work.

Recently, two DJs in Durban claimed that Bongekile Simelane, who is better known as kwaito artist Babes Wodumo, stole their song Gandaganda. They provided evidence that their song was released long before her single.

Earlier this year, another upcoming artist – Nhlanhla Dlamini from Tembisa in Gauteng – accused rapper Refiloe Phoolo (Cassper Nyovest) of stealing his song Baby Girl.

Dlamini claimed the song sounded like a track he had released way before Nyovest. He said he had sent a sample of the track to Nyovest last year, but the hitmaker’s representatives did not acknowledge receipt of his email.

And, last year, unknown music group Fresh Gods – from Heidelberg, south of Johannesburg – accused rapper David Ngcobo (Nasty C) of stealing their song Fresh Pack, which was initially titled Juice Packed.

The list is endless, yet most of these unknown artists’ claims go unnoticed.

In many cases, when unknown artists lodge a complaint to regulatory body the SA Music Rights Organisation, they have no leg to stand on or they fight a losing battle because the superstars would have been the first to release and register their songs. Hence, their version is recognised first.

It is difficult to prove music plagiarism or theft, especially when the original producer has not copyrighted their compositions as their own intellectual property or registered it with the relevant bodies. And, according to the technology news website digitaltrends.com, it is difficult to take legal action because the burden of proof lies with the aggrieved person.

That artist has to prove that the person they accuse of theft had access to the song, and that the song in question is “substantially similar”.

South Africa is not the only country dealing with copyright infringement; rip-offs are rife worldwide.

In March 2015, the children of legendary US soul singer Marvin Gaye filed a lawsuit against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke, claiming the two had ripped off their father’s 1977 hit Got to Give It Up to make their track Blurred Lines – which was the hit song of 2013. The court ruled that both artists pay Gaye’s family $7.3m (R94m).

Such despicable acts make me wonder how many more talented unknowns have been robbed of a chance at success.

Follow me on Twitter @Ntombi_Makhoba

Read more on:    entertainment  |  music

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