Monday, 22 December 2014

Music piracy: A current South African view

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Moshito 2006 is taking place from the 20th to the 22nd September at Museum Africa in Newtown. MIO is re-publishing some of the articles written about Moshito 2005 as a build up of South Africa’s music industry most important events. This session from Moshito 2005 is about Music piracy: A current South African view.

With the recent Moshito Music Industry Conference, the spotlight was once again thrown on music piracy. For the last few weeks, MIO has been delving into the issue from a South African perspective, trying to get hold of facts and figures for you.

South Africa is amongst 18 countries in the world where music piracy accounts for 25 and 50% of all losses in music sales. Musicians work hard on their projects hoping that when they release them, they will do well in the market. However, once the album is out possibilities are that it might not be sustained in the legal music market, even though it can be heard in most places.

The definition of piracy is straightforward; in case you are unclear on the concept of music piracy, let me be explicit. In simple words, music piracy is theft. Elaborating on this explanation, music piracy is the unauthorised recording of music without the authority of the copyright owner.

It is true that when new technology is invented it is a double edge sword, benefiting some at the expense of others. The invention of CD writers has impacted on the creativity of everyone in the music industry. Piracy is bad practice and is slowly but surely killing music.

If you – like us – didn’t know the types of music piracy and their definitions, here are the main categories you should bear in mind.

Simple Piracy: The unauthorised duplication of an original recording for a commercial gain without the consent rights of the owner. Pirated copies in this category are usually much cheaper than the original product.

Counterfeits: An original recording is copied and packed to resemble the original as closely as possible. The original producer’s trademarks and logos are reproduced in order to mislead the consumer into believing that they are buying an original product.

Bootlegs: This is the unauthorised recording of a live broadcast performance. The recording is then duplicated and sold without the permission of the composer, artist or recording company.

Internet Piracy: The music is compressed, posted and transmitted globally via the internet without the authorisation or payments of any royalties to those who invested in the creation of the project.

There are currently numerous national and international illegal underground companies specialising in producing fake recorded music in the form of CDs and cassettes. Furthermore, those who have access to CD writers simply buy CD-R and copy any music they want while others duplicates whatever music they want on cassettes . Added to the issue of piracy is the business of unauthorised free Internet downloading, which is also jeopardizing the business of music industry like never before.

What are the issues at stake? Firstly, the creativity of all the people involved in a process of creating a song or whole project is being taken for granted. The worst part of this is that most people in the music industry live and breathe music. This means that if the projects they worked on don’t do well in the market, their profit decrease, creating a situation where they have nothing to support themselves and those who depend on them.

Organisations like the Recording Industry of South Africa (RISA) have stood up to fight this frustrating scenario. Besides the on going confiscation of pirated music copies in different provinces, RISA has also taken awareness to schools where they educate pupils about music piracy and how it affects those who make their living out of music. These presentations have been furnished together with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Southern African Federation against Copyright Theft (SAFACT).

Combating piracy has become more complex and legally challenging than it was before, and the law has a lot of catching up to do in terms of coping with the current situation. Syndicates with distribution networks that are well established are additionally well funded and have legal representatives. This simply means that syndicates know what they are doing is wrong, but are always prepared to fight legal battle if they ever encounter the law.

Nevertheless, RISA is making sure that those who are capable of producing illegal and fake music CDs and Cassettes are dealt a blow by justice.

Here are some highlights of cases that happened in recent years…

  • 21,300 CDs and Cassettes were confiscated and crushed in Durban in 2002.
  • In Polokwane towards the end of 2002, 30,000 units consisting of cassettes CDs and DVDs were destroyed during the celebration of the South African Music Week.
  • During the course of 2003, RISA was involved in confiscating well of over 1.5 million CD’s and Cassettes.
  • In 2004, the struggle of fighting piracy continued and still, more pirated music CDs and Cassettes were confiscated. In Benoni Flea Market, RISA Anti-Piracy Unit confiscated approximately 4000 discs, 6 CD writers, 2 colour printers and scanners.

2005 appears to be the year of pending trials against perpetrators, there has been follow up on different cases occurring in recent years and the outcome of these cases was promise to be satisfying.

A case opened in 2003 of a suspect operating in a flea market in Boksburg, just outside the city of Johannesburg was finalised and the suspect admitted guilty and paid a R75 000 admission of guilty fine to the court as well as a civic settlement amount of R24 000 to RISA.

According to the report by RISA which MIO is in possession of, thousands of CDs and Cassettes have already been seized this year. While internet piracy has devastated the music business; it has also threatens careers of many people in the music industry. However, networks like Napster pushed the boundaries of the use of music technology in which there are regulations on how you go on making legal download and how music is currently copyrighted and protected electronically (Digital Rights Management). On the other hand, electronic music formats like MP3, OGG and even Microsoft’s WMA allow artists who do not wish to sell or protect their music – rather choosing to give it away – a platform to do so and be heard by millions.

School surveys show that approximately 70% of the students had copied music on a CD and 37% illegally downloaded music files from the internet. It is also strongly believed that about everyone who owns computers with CD writer, copies music at home.

On the African continent, Lucky Dube, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Chicco, Brenda Fassie, Rebecca Malope, Mandoza, Ringo and Joyous Celebration are some of the SA musicians that have been seriously ripped off by piracy.

According to the research it is estimated that each year, the local music industry loses about R350 million to piracy.

As piracy continues to harm the industry it means that, artists have no royalty payments and no bread money. Record companies also have no returns on investments which means a decrease in budget expenditure and stuff members end up being retrenched. Retailers cannot complete with low prices and no investment take place into new musicians. Consumers face inferior quality product and if tracks are missing or the sound quality is poor, there is no exchange or refunds. Owners of record stores, CD and Cassette plant, marketing, promotion and distributors also lose out. Of course, government losses come in the form of revenue as the tax man is not paid, which does not help our fledgling economy.

South Africa ‘s fights against music piracy needs the involvement of everyone in the music scene and play a dynamic role. People need to be educated about how piracy is attacking music industry and how it is harming the work of everyone involved in the project.

If we love music and want to support its development and the longevity of our local artists, then we need to comply with regulations and buy original music copies. When you buy pirated music you create a market for criminals and when you copy music you are promoting piracy.

Let’s all of us put our efforts toward supporting a thriving domestic music scene in every way we can, and consumer behaviour is one area where everyone can play a significant role.

More info? www.risa.org.za

Author: phathu