Mobile giant MTN has failed to pay music copyright royalties to songwriters since 2013. The company, which owes just under R1 million for 2014, has also failed to declare music sales data and earnings for 2015 to songwriters.
CAPASSO, the royalty collecting society which represents songwriters and their publishers for music digital sales, states that attempts to license and collect the outstanding royalties and reports from MTN and its subsidiary Content Connect Africa (CCA), which is responsible for delivering some of the music available on MTN music platforms such as CallerTunez, have been met with nothing but constant rate disputes and an unwillingness to enter into licence agreements.
Business Affairs manager at CAPASSO, Mr Wiseman Ngubo, states: “Following more than a year of negotiations with both MTN and CCA, it is remarkable that both these parties are now disputing the licence fee rate, even though MTN previously paid royalties at the same rate in 2013. The rate has not increased”.
This is despite other industry players, including competitor mobile companies and other suppliers of music to MTN such as Madlozi, a company affiliated to Kalawa Jazmee, agreeing and duly paying music royalties at the same agreed rates.
CAPASSO represents numerous songwriters either directly, such as Tarryn Lamb, Nompumelelo Mzobe and Doctor Malinga, or through their publishers such Ghetto Ruff, Soulistic Music Pty Ltd (Universal Music Publishing), CashTime Life (Gallo Music Publishers), and Thoho Records.
MTN’s attitude to songwriter royalties is not new. Failed negotiations and rate disputes have been the order of the day for over five years; this while the mobile giant continues to sell hit singles such as Black Coffee’s We Dance Again and K.O.’s Caracara.
According to CAPASSO CEO Nothando Migogo “As CD sales steadily decline, digital music sales are an increasingly relied-upon revenue stream for songwriters and composers. Songwriters are excited to see their songs on sale by MTN as caller ring-back tones or downloads, but are shocked when CAPASSO tells them that it hasn’t received royalties or, in some cases even reports, for these sales”.
“The unfortunate thing is that songwriters, who are also artists, don’t realise that even if they receive payment for their role as the artist or singer on a song, they are still owed another royalty for their role as a songwriter. It is this songwriter royalty that CAPASSO collects.
“It is even worse for songwriters who don’t perform on the actual song. They don’t even benefit from the first type of royalty which may (or may not) have been paid by MTN”. Migogo adds that numerous “hidden” songwriters or featured artists on other artists’ big hit singles have been at CAPASSO’s doors demanding reasons for the missing royalties.
With the call by mobiles giants including MTN for more regulation of OTT services such as Whatsapp and Skype, due to the bad impact these services have had on the mobile companies’ profits, MTN’s disregard of its own governance and corporate citizenship obligations is even more glaring and ironic.
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Issued by JT Communication Solutions on Behalf of CAPASSO (Composers Authors and Publishers Association) – www.capasso.co.za