CAPASSO urges MTN, music sellers, to arm themselves with proper knowledge of copyright law.

In the ongoing music licensing and royalties matter between MTN and CAPASSO, the purposeful or careless misunderstanding by the mobile company of the legal framework governing music is an obstacle to finding a common ground, according to CAPASSO.

According to Composers, Authors and Publishers Association (CAPASSO), MTN’s interchangeable referencing of composition owners (songwriters and publishers, represented by CAPASSO) and owners of the sound recording (performers and record labels), does nothing but create confusion in the eyes of the public and, importantly, affected members of the music industry. MTN’s recent press statement, announcing its deal with Sony Music, clearly sought to capitalize on this confusion.

This confusion is also evident in MTN’s claim that CAPASSO’s “members had been opposing CAPASSO’s actions” in trying to get legal compliance out of MTN. Instead of citing owners of the music compositions, MTN cited an owner of music sound recordings, a constituency that CAPASSO does not represent and never claimed to. On the contrary, sound recording owners are required to account to composers and publishers when making copies of compositions and are therefore ‘user customers’ (not members) of CAPASSO.

“For every song you hear, there is the original composition which is created when the music and lyrics are written (notes, chords etc.). This is the copyright CAPASSO represents. When this composition is then performed in a studio and recorded, a second copyright is born. This is usually owned by the record label. Because these are two different copyrights, both need authorization before the song can be sold by a third party like MTN” said CAPASSO CEO Nothando Migogo.

MTN’s recognition of the second copyright in its deal with Sony Music does not nullify the fact that the original copyright, owned by someone else, exists, nor that it is protected in law (Copyright Act).

The existence of these two separate copyrights is shown by the existence of two separate sub-sectors in the music industry: owners of the composition (songwriters and publishers) and owners of the sound recording (record labels).

“In fact, most well know music brands such as Sony and Universal have two distinct operations handling these two different rights. In the specific case of these two brands, even where the record label operations may have agreements with MTN, both publishing operations (Sony ATV and Universal Music Publishing) are represented by CAPASSO and, importantly, fully support CAPASSO’s actions in relation to MTN’s unlicensed music sales.

Migogo added that independent (indie) music companies, who sometimes administer both copyrights (publishing and sound recording) under one roof needed to realise that the publishing royalties they are currently not getting from MTN sales due to MTN’s (and its agents’) non-compliance, reduces their bottom line, even if they are receiving sound recording royalties. “The decision to prioritise one copyright royalty over another is unjust and is a flagrant undermining of the law by MTN.”

CAPASSO, however, remained hopeful that MTN would come to an understanding with CAPASSO in terms of which MTN acknowledged that it could not be wholly divorced for the rights and legal obligations that arise from the sale of music on its platforms.

* CAPASSO (Composers Authors and Publishers Association) is a not for profit royalty collection company operating from Johannesburg.

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