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MTN ordered to take down its music

Fed-up songwriters have issued mobile network MTN a ‘take-down’ notice to remove music from its stores as of today. By Gareth van Zyl, NewsAgency

Non-profit organisation the Composers, Authors and Publishers Association (Capasso) is accusing MTN of owing songwriters R1m in unpaid royalties for 2014.

Capasso is further accusing MTN of failing to declare music sales data and earnings to songwriters for 2015.

And now the copyright body wants MTN to “cease the use, sale and other exploitation of musical works owned or represented by Capasso members” by Wednesday, February 10. The mobile network sells music via services such as its ‘CallerTunez’ offering and the MTN Play Store .

The take-down notice comes after Capasso says it met with MTN on Friday amid media exposure of the dispute.

Subsequent to the meeting, Capasso says it sent MTN an official offer of settlement that required the mobile network to respond by 16:00 on Monday, February 8.

However, Capasso CEO Nothando Migogo says that MTN failed to respond to the offer, which included a call for the mobile network to stop “deflecting its copyright liability” to third party content aggregators. These aggregators sell music on to MTN.

“Capasso seeks a commitment from MTN to acknowledge that MTN is the music storefront and as such, MTN itself is liable for the copyright use and undertakes to enter into a licence agreement with Capasso in that regard,” said Migogo in a statement.

Last week, Migogo told Fin24 that other networks such as Vodacom have licence agreements with Capasso and are paying songwriters their royalties in a timely manner.

Migogo last week further accused MTN of selling unlicensed music.

MTN, at the time of writing, has not yet responded to questions from Fin24 about the take-down notice. The network’s music services, at the time of writing, were also still online on Wednesday, despite the take-down notice.

Last week, the mobile network slammed Capasso’s copyright allegations as being “devoid of all truth”.

MTN South Africa’s executive for sales, marketing and distribution, Larry Annetts, told Fin24 via an email response last week that the mobile network is working with Capasso to “settle royalties for the current period”.

“Since 2014, MTN has required all content providers to obtain all necessary licences and engage directly with regulators,” said Annetts last week. Annetts further said that MTN requested Capasso to submit a “revised and correct invoice in respect of invoices payable”.

Migogo told Fin24 that Capasso’s latest invoice to MTN was correct as it is based on usage reports for 2014 and calculated at the same rate at which MTN paid royalties for music usage in 2013.

Capasso says it represents songwriters either directly or through their publishers.

Songwriters that Capasso represents includes the likes Tarryn Lamb, Nompumelelo Mzobe and Doctor Malinga while publishers range from Ghetto Ruff, Soulistic  Music Pty Ltd (Universal Music Publishers), CashTime Life (Gallo Music Publishers) and Sheer Publishing. – Fin24

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