Statement by Sandile Memela, Spokesman for the Ministry of Arts and Culture, on the Department’s “Quiet Diplomacy” to fight piracy in the music industry .

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19 Apr 2007

A misleading impression is being created that the Department of Arts & Culture does not care about the threat that piracy poses for South African musicians.

Over the last few years, the Department of Arts & Culture has been aware of the efforts of various personalities and ad-hoc committees to fight piracy and trade in counterfeited music products.

We want to state categorically that the right of South African musicians to fair remuneration for their talent and exertions has been among the priorities this Department has pursued since its establishment in 2004.

Over the past seven years the Department initiated the Music Industry Task Team ((MITT) whose report and recommendations have assisted us to develop holistic strategies to address the problems of the music industry.

Music piracy and trade in counterfeit music is symptomatic of a much larger problem. It is a criminal offence, and as such is under the remit of the Department of Safety and Security which carries the responsibility for prosecuting those who break the law.

This department has also been very vocal in discouraging the illegal use of and violation of copyright with respect to musical products.

We played a pivotal role in launching Moshito – the annual music industry exhibition, market and forum – and the establishment of the Association of Independent Recording Companies of South Africa (AIRCO) to deal, amongst other things, precisely with music piracy and the illegal trade in counterfeited music products.

Currently the Department is pursuing a vigorous programme with AIRCO not only to raise awareness of the scourge of music piracy but also to develop much more strategic solutions to this problem. This initiative was launched at the recent Cape Town International Jazz Festival. Further workshops will take place in other centers including KZN, Mpumalanga, North West Province and the Free State.

Because it is low-key, perhaps this initiative may not have attracted media attention like the much-vaunted “Operation Dudula,” for instance. We are of the view that the anti-piracy campaign should be an all-inclusive programme that involves all role players.

The Department is painstakingly working behind the scenes to broker collaborative efforts among all stake-holders. In fact, the Anti-Piracy sub-committee chaired by Eugene Mthethwa ( assisted by Harvey Roberts and Tebogo Sithathu ) has been mandated to foster unity among all stakeholders in the effort to find solutions to the problem of piracy.

The Department believes that public education is central to eradicating piracy. The 21 st Century has witnessed the emergence of new technologies that make copying easier and easily affordable. Thus, the best way to combat it is, first, to educate the public that copying of music is illegal and can lead to the trade in pirated music.

As the Department, we are committed to creating new platforms for South African music at home through Moshito and on international music market. We are active participants in MIDEM, which takes place annually in France, for instance. This has enabled local music to reach a global audience. But, more significantly, it has enlightened both our officials and musicians on how the rest of the world is tackling the problems that confront the music industry.

The creation of a strong and viable music industry is critical to the Government’s agenda of fighting poverty, job creation and thus promoting a spirit of cultural self-determination and economic self-reliance among musicians. That is why we are unwavering in our efforts to create an enabling environment that promotes stability in the music industry and provides hope in the lives of our artists.

This has been enhanced by well-advanced plans to establish a social security network for all our artists, especially musicians who have been plagued by poverty.

However, we are aware that musicians will need to be the agents of the change that they want to see in their own lives. We consequently supported and welcomed the formation of the South African Creative Workers Union under the leadership of Mabutho “Kid” Sithole, the support mechanism for all our creative workers which will champion their rights in the same manner as other unions do.

We have provided moral support towards the effort of all our artists to organize themselves for greater effectiveness. It is the artists themselves, through a consistent, coherent and co-coordinated programme of action, who will ultimately create a more favorable environment for themselves.

As the custodians of the arts, culture and heritage of our nation, we will continue to play a strategic role towards the development of our music industry.

END

For further information, call Sandile Memela, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Arts & Culture at 082 800 3750.