Chicco seeks order to interdict Samro from collecting royalties

Legendary musician Sello “Chicco” Twala is seeking a court order to interdict the South African Music Rights Organisation (Samro) from collecting his millions of royalties from digital platforms.

Samro, which is the biggest collecting society in the country, has been collecting royalties for Twala for 36 years after the two signed a deed of agreement in 1987.

The revered producer extraordinaire also wants to interdict Samro from interfering with his right to join another collecting society.

The order should also compel and direct Samro to accede to his request to exclude his public performance rights that find exploitation in the digital environment in South Africa and all territories of the world.

In the court papers he filed in the Joburg High Court last week, Twala said on November 22 last year, he had instructed his attorney to ask Samro to carve out some of his rights from certain deeds of assignments he had concluded with the organisation.

He said he advised Samro of his intention to join a foreign society whose mandate would be to collect royalties for territories outside Africa. Samro would thus be entitled to collect within South Africa and Africa.

Twala also wanted Samro to refrain from collecting royalties on digital and online exploitation.

“In other words, Samro shall not be permitted to collect all royalties that accrue from online exploitation.

Alternatively, the new society shall provide Samro with a list of the digital services providers for which it has concluded a licence agreement. Samro will then only be permitted to collect royalties from online/digital sources that are not specifically listed (by the new collecting society),” read papers.

The lawyer, said Twala, implored the organisation to send him documents in order to amend the mandate he had given to the entity. Twala said in essence, his request was to terminate or withdraw the mandate given to Samro entitling it to collect musician royalties in South Africa and the rest of Africa “To terminate / withdraw the mandate given to Samro to administer my performing rights, exploited in the digital and online environment within South Africa.

In other words , I needSamro to carve out digital and online exploitation of my performing rights that were ceded to it in a deed of agreement.”

Twala said Samro responded to his lawyers’ on December 12 and said it did not have qualms with his request to cover Africa and exclude the rest of the world but said it would not be able to exclude digital and online exploitation as their IT system did not have capacity to meet his demands.

 He said the organisation wrote a letter to his lawyers on January 20 and said it would be looking at the implementation of the new system with its IT department to enable it to service his request but failed to give him timelines to accede to his request.

“I was provided with a totally inadequate and irrational justification for why my request for a carve out had been denied. For everyday it takes for it to carve out my rights, I am financially prejudiced as Samro only administers my rights in question via a blanket licence, as it has a small repertoire of a small commercial value,” read the papers.

He said his lawyers wrote to Samro on January 24 and asked them to amend the deed of assignment by no later than March 1 and threatened to take them to court if it failed to do so.

“Due to the respondent’s blatant disregard for my rights as enshrined in the Copyright Act, I have been left to twist in the wind while Samro twiddles their proverbial thumbs.

The conduct of the respondent has left me with no option but to approach the high court and seek the appropriate relief,” read the papers.

Twala said there was no justification why Samro should not grant his request because with the advent of large transitional digital music service providers who make music available to the public through music streaming such as Spotify or iTunes or oven Netflix and Disney, artists are obliged to revise their right management strategies in order to maximise the returns from the exploitation of their works.

Samro refused to comment saying that the matter is sub judice.

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