South Africa's Department of Trade and Industries (DTI) has announced details of a Copyright Review Commission that will investigate collecting societies and the distribution of royalties. The remit of the Commission is more wide-ranging than expected.

Speaking at a parliamentary media briefing in Cape Town, Trade and Industry deputy minister Thandi Tobias-Pokolo confirmed that a retired Supreme Court judge, Judge Ian Farlam, will chair the body which will undertake its work from January to June 2011. Farlam is also chairperson of the standing advisory committee on Intellectual Property.

The retired judge will be assisted by five commissioners - ethnomusicologist and cultural researcher Professor Musa Xulu; former deputy minister of Social Development and policy analyst Jean Swanson-Jacobs; chartered accountant Nala Mhlongo; intellectual property lecturer Professor Tana Pistorius; and Oupa Leboga, secretary of the Creative Workers Union of South Africa. Public hearings, research and benchmark studies will be undertaken by Farlam and the five commissioners. The Commission will operate with a budget of just over 3 million South African rand ($426,000).

The scope of the Copyright Review Commission includes a review of South Africa's Copyright Act, which came into existence in 1978 and was last amended in 2002. According to reports, the contractual relationship between artists and the major labels - Sony, EMI, Warner Music Gallo Africa and Universal - as well as between composers and publishing companies will be investigated.

The Review Commission will also look at the collecting societies operating in South Africa - in particular whether royalties collected are being correctly paid to performers and songwriters (Billboard, Oct. 23). Senior Trade and Industry official Mandla Mnyatheli was quoted as saying the commission's work "could" lead to criminal investigations to recover withheld royalties.

The DTI has further aligned the Copyright Review Commission with the department's recently announced anti-piracy campaign. In this, the DTI has also included an assessment of the nature and extent of the use of music by cell phone companies and digital platforms and whether they are paying royalties to the correct copyright owners.

In her press briefing, Tobias-Pokolo said, "I hope the findings and recommendations will result in the improvement of the lives of artists and to the systemic economic growth of the industry and the economy as a whole."