South African artists objecting to street vendors selling pirated music recently lead to public brawls, but that’s not where the violence will end, warned the president of the Creative Worker’s Union (CWUSA), Mabutho “Kid” Sithole.
Sithole believes that in the end we’ll be seeing xenophobic attacks, as many of the pirates are foreign nationals and “locals want to respond to that [music piracy]”.
If government doesn’t intervene, Sithole said, the media will be reporting about more “black-on-black violence.”
One of the CWUSA’s members has already received death threats for speaking out against vendors of pirated music, said Sithole. Thembinkosi “TK” Nciza, director of TS Records, was the recipient of the threats, Sithole confirmed.
According to Sithole, Nciza made a statement that they are going to defend their artists and their products even if they had to put their bodies on the line, to which he received the message, “Listen we are ready for you.”
This followed a spate of brawls where artists were reportedly attacked for confronting street vendors selling illegal copies of their work, after which poet Mzwakhe Mbuli told Sowetan that they were launching “operation shoot the pirate”.
Asked about the “Shoot the Pirate” campaign, Sithole said that the CWUSA would not support a violent campaign.
He said that the campaign was an emotional response to the situation and that their members were angry about being attacked and not getting a response from government.
“There’s a hullaballoo about the defence of rhinos, but nothing is done about defending the rights of artists. Nothing is being put on the table by government to curb this nonsense,” Sithole said.
Sithole said that part of the problem is that they don’t have a single place they can get answers from.
Some are saying that they should talk to RiSA, others say SAFACT. Sithole said that when it comes to talking to government, the Departments of Trade and Industry, Communications, and Home Affairs each handle different aspects of artist’s concerns.
Compounded with “lousy penalties” for infringement and the fact that copyright ownership isn’t clear-cut, with studios, producers, and artists all having a different stake, Sithole explained that the whole affair is frustrating.
Sithole said that the CWUSA is trying to arrange a meeting with everyone involved and are trying to get everyone from the Minister of Police to the National Intelligence Agency under one roof to impress the gravity of the problem.
“Art is not taken seriously, even though it contributes to the GDP of the country,” Sithole concluded.