How Copyright Organisations and Royalties affect the Broadcasting Industry of South Africa (Part 1)
The relationship between radio stations and copyright organisations is one that goes back to the beginning of radio in South Africa. How much of what we hear broadcast across the country is dictated by copyright laws and royalties?
Copyright organisations have been in existence for the majority of the 20th century. Their main objective is to ensure that the rights of music-creating individuals and all who are associated with the production process are protected. Copyright organisations uphold the copyright laws of South Africa and monitor the payments of royalties to artists, their record labels, their publishers and anyone else that helped to create the album/song.
There are three Copyright Organisations in South Africa. The most popular is SAMRO (South African Music Rights Organisation) but SAMRO also shares the copyright floor with AIRCO (The Association of Independent Record Companies) and RISA (The Recording Industry of South Africa).
SAMRO is recognised as the primary copyrights organisation in the country, representing the interests of the largest number of local artists. AIRCO is a non-profit organisation, which strives to protect the rights of independent artists in South Africa and enable them to be locally and internationally recognised. RISA is dedicated to promoting and safeguarding the interests of local musicians and record companies, working towards an industry that represents the new South Africa.
SAMRO and RISA are both associated with the IFPI (The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry), an international organisation that seeks to monitor copyright laws and associations worldwide. IFPI acts as an umbrella organisation for copyright organisations.
The Berne Convention, an international standard of copyright laws, maintains certain standards to ensure that copyright organisations all over the world approach any and all copyright and royalties issues from an internationally approved standpoint, to best protect musical artists and their works. SAMRO attends the Berne Convention yearly to maintain an internationally recognised standard in South Africa.
Local copyright law
Any musical works created in South Africa are automatically copyrighted upon creation and recording. This copyright is valid for a period of fifty years after the music is officially created (this would rely on the time of recording and distribution).
Performing Rights are owned by the author or composer of the musical works. The Public Performance royalties are paid to the copyright organisation, who takes a small administration fee and distributes the royalties accordingly to the composer(s), their publisher and any other organisation, company or individual who has been granted royalties by the composer(s).
Needletime Rights are granted by the original composer(s) of a musical work or their entrusted body of representatives, such as the copyright organisation that they are registered with. This means that any organisation that would like to distribute, broadcast or reproduce this music is then required to pay Needletime Royalties (also known as “pay-per-play”), which are collected by the copyright organisation.
The Performers’ Association of South Africa Trust (POSA) is associated with SAMRO and monitors the Needletime Royalties for any SAMRO member, ensuring that local radio stations are paying the correct amount of royalties to SAMRO for the use of the musical works.
Copyright Organisations in other countries whose members’ musical works have been broadcast in South Africa are associated with local copyright organisations. This means that radio stations pay the royalties due to the local copyright organisation, who then interacts with the copyright organisation in the other country to transfer the royalties to them for distribution.
What it means for radio
The biggest concern with royalties in South Africa is that there is no industry standard. The agreed percentage payable on physical copies of recorded music and the distribution thereof is 5% of the retail price. The royalties payable on the broadcasting of copyrighted music has no official limit or agreed upon percentage, which means that it is completely subjected to whichever agreement is reached between the original composer(s), their recording company and/or their copyright organisation. As there is no standard percentage or fee that all musicians need to adhere to, the royalties on various copyrighted music can vary greatly and contesting any royalties in a court for being excessive can be pointless and reach no satisfactory conclusion.
South African musicians rely on radio stations as a medium of advertising their new music, a source of income and a way to generate CD sales outside of the radio industry. If radio stations can no longer afford to pay the royalties demanded by the copyright organisations or the composer(s), not only will the listenership for that station suffer but the music industry in South Africa as a whole.
Is there a way for the citizens of South Africa to ensure that their radio stations survive without killing the growth of the local music industry? Should there be some sort of agreement among copyright organisations, recording companies and South African composer(s) to ensure that royalties agreed upon follow a standard set of calculations and procedures based on the composer(s) popularity, their CD sales, the revenue brought to the radio stations through the broadcast of their music and any other factors that can prove that the royalties that they demand are deserved?
The validity period of a copyright does provide a loophole for radio stations in that if the musical work was created more than fifty years ago, radio stations do not need to pay royalties on this work. Unfortunately, this loophole applies only to radio stations whose target audience wish to listen to older music and does nothing for radio stations that rely on a younger market for listenership, which means that only a few radio stations can lessen their expenses in this area.