A dispute over South Africa's anti-piracy battles intensified yesterday (Aug. 16) when four musicians and producers disrupted a Recording Industry of South Africa (RiSA) executive board meeting in Joh
A dispute over South Africa's anti-piracy battles intensified yesterday (Aug. 16) when four musicians and producers disrupted a Recording Industry of South Africa (RiSA) executive board meeting in Johannesburg.
The group demanded the resignation of Keith Lister, RiSA's executive board chairman, who also happens to be Sony BMG Africa's CEO. The activists argued that he refused to allow RiSA to support Operation Dudula, an artist-driven anti-piracy group.
Led by recording artist Mzwakhe Mbuli, the group threatened to disrupt next year's South African Music Awards (this year's awards gala took place on May 6 at the Sun City Superbowl) unless RiSA forced Lister to resign.
Mbuli commented: "Our presence here clearly demonstrates our dissatisfaction and vote of no confidence in Lister. He is a dictator, naïve and must resign or face public humiliation."
Speaking to Billboard.biz, Lister responded to the accusations by describing Operation Dudula as a "vigilante group, albeit one which reflects the real frustration of artists at the high and rampant level of piracy in our country."
But, commenting on Operation Dudula's strategy, he commented: "They operate illegally. They have forced their way into various premises. They carry out raids, which have led to the assault of individuals, the seizure of goods without any form of judicial process and the vandalization of hawkers' stalls, and the destruction of allegedly pirated product without any sort of due process."
Lister explained that RiSA's Anti-Piracy Enforcement Unit carries out legitimate anti-piracy operations with the South African police daily nationwide.
"Beating people up is not an option. Pirates are criminals. If they come to associate anti-piracy work with violence, they will fight back. We cannot expose our employees to that increased danger," he declared.
Despite attempts to cooperate with Operation Dudula, its organizers refuse to renounce its violent and illegal methods, he said. Instead they are demanding Rand 36 million ($5.3 million) to coordinate a separate piracy-awareness education project.
"Our position is not negotiable," Lister told Billboard.biz. "There is simply no way that the RiSA executive board is going to agree to contribute financially to a vigilante operation that operates illegally."
It is thought that Irving Schlosberg, managing director of EMI South Africa, believes there is some merit to Operation Dudula's anti-piracy objectives. By chance, Mbuli is signed to EMI SA's local division CCP Record Company.
"Mzwakhe gave his assurance that the organization was not linked to violence. EMI will always support any legitimate organization that takes a position on anti-piracy. Mzwakhe had advised that Operation Dudula has the support of the government and, on this basis, I said that EMI would support this," Schlosberg said.