Two of South Africa's Largest Royalty Collection Agencies Join Forces
Two of South Africa's Largest Royalty Collection Agencies Join Forces

Two leading South African royalty collection societies have signed a memorandum of understanding as the first step to forming the country's first joint mechanical rights collecting society.

In what marks the first major agreement between South African collecting societies in the country's history, the Southern African Music Rights Organisation, Limited (SAMRO) and the National Organisation for the Reproduction Rights in Music in Southern Africa, Limited (NORM) will form a new body known as the Composers Authors Publishers Association of South Africa (CAPASA).

In a statement NORM chairman and Gallo Music Publishing MD, Arnold Mabunda noted that formation of CAPASA had come after two years of discussions between NORM - an association of Southern African music publishers and composers - and SAMRO, which was established close to 50 years ago as a performing rights body.

Mabunda confirmed that the decision to join forces came as a result of needs of both licensees and rights holders. "Most of our members have always felt that there could be a great benefit if the two organizations operated as one in the field of Mechanical Rights," he said in a statement. "Some of those benefits include reduced operating costs, a simplified licensing process and a streamlined rights holder database."

CAPASA's formation comes at a time when a Copyright Review Commission is in the middle of a six-month review into collection societies. Initiated by the Department of Trade and Industry in 2010, the five-member commission began its work in January this year and will run until June. A series of nine public meetings are planned for May to allow individuals, including songwriters and musicians, to make oral submissions.

Among the commission's terms of reference is to "assess the effectiveness of the structure of collecting societies in South Africa, including those that belong to authors, composers, recording companies, musicians/artists and others." The Copyright review Commission is tasked with assessing, advising and making recommendations to the South African government on how the collective management of copyright can be improved.

The commission was prompted in part by a November 2009 High Court order of liquidation against the South African Recording Rights Association Limited (SARRAL), which had operated as the country's third mechanical rights collecting society.

In a statement, Annette Emdon, SAMRO chairperson said that the formation of CAPASA would streamline mechanical rights administration in the country. "Some large music users had always been complaining about the administrative burden and difficulties of taking out the Mechanical Rights licence from different societies, sometime even for the same song," said Emdon. "We felt that a solution had to be found and we are pleased with the signing of the MOU as it marks the beginning of a significant journey towards the establishment of a fully fledged joint Mechanical Rights operation."

CAPASA is due to be in operation by the end of 2011.