Nigerian Highlife music sensation, Flavour N’abania and his South African colleague, DJ Cleo have requested sales data from MTN, its subsidiary and content aggregator, Content Connect Africa (CCA), and Vodacom, suspecting that their copyright has been infringed upon, sources have said.
Although the companies have denied any such infringements, pundits reason that their liability could run into billions in unpaid royalties and fines in South Africa alone.
‘It is not correct that MTN is liable for billions of rands in royalty payments’ said sales, marketing and distribution executive, Larry Annetts.
According to City Press, if they can prove copyright violations, the SA Copyright Act provides for a first offence fine of up to R5 000, or a jail term. If it is a repeat offence, the act provides for a fine of up to R10 000 or a jail term, per infringement.
Copyright expert Graeme Gilfillan, representing DJ Cleo’s company, Will of Steel Productions, and Flavour’s company, 2Nite Enter10ment, began sending out separate requests for data from MTN, Vodacom and CCA since mid-December.
Annetts however maintained that “MTN is up to date with most royalty payments with Capasso and is in the process of settling the recent royalty invoice…for the current period, which amounts to less than R1million. MTN understands the importance and imperative of paying music royalties for music that it sells on its platforms. With regard to payment of mechanical royalties, we have…been trying to resolve [this] from as far back as 2012.”
He added that “MTN has been dealing with alleged claims for Will of Steel Productions since 2012…Mr Gilfillan was invited to participate in this process; however, MTN had not received any document or response from him.”
In the same vein, Vodacom has rejected any suggestion of criminal misconduct. “We have communicated with Mr Gilfillan on this issue on an ongoing basis. Vodacom informed Mr Gilfillan that it reports to CCA…in respect of his clients’ recordings. Mr Gilfillan needs to approach CCA,’ it stated, just as CCA is saying that, ‘Neither Will of Steel nor 2Nite Enter10ment has shown any proof that they each own the songs and publishing underlying the sound recordings.”
According to CCA’s Antos Stella, “CCA denies that it has infringed the copyright of Will of Steel and 2-Nite-Enter-10-ment’s copyright in any of their songs and publishing. We informed Gilfillan that CCA sends recording royalty statements to his clients and that his clients are in possession of these statements, We informed him that mechanical royalties are reflected on statements sent to his clients… CCA can prove that it receives invoices from Will of Steel and 2Nite Enter10ment for recording royalties and that it pays them.”