Update on the SABC dispute


Dear SAMPRA Members,

On 6th June 2018, the SABC made an unfortunate announcement that it had taken an illogical decision of paying 75% of the 2014/15 royalties to an organisation that represents less than 10% of recording artists and record companies. We responded by indicating that we would take legal action against the SABC.

We have sent a letter of demand to the SABC, and we are demanding not less than 90% payment of the royalties for the 2014/15 financial year. As stated before, we are confident that our repertoire on the SABC’s playlists across all their radio stations is not less than 90%. Whether the SABC responds negatively or they ignore our demands will not stop us from proceeding with legal action.

We have provided the SABC with the necessary documentation to prove our ownership of not less than 90% repertoire. The SABC has refused to give us any documentation to support its decision of allocating 75% of royalties to IMPRA. In court, the SABC will have no choice, but to demonstrate how and why they decided to donate royalties due to SAMPRA members to IMPRA.

In terms of section 8(5), the Regulations on the Establishment of Collecting Societies in the Music Industry (2006), a needletime distribution plan is supposed to be submitted to the Registrar of Copyright for approval before any distribution is done. We have informed the Registrar of Copyright that the SABC made a payment to IMPRA when there was a dispute between the SABC and ourselves on the payment calculation of these royalties. We have, therefore, officially written to the Registrar to implore them not to approve the IMPRA distribution plan, when and if IMPRA submits one for approval, pending the finalisation of this matter.

We believe, amongst others, that the SABC payment to IMPRA violates section 8(5)(a) of the Regulations which states that a distribution plan shall not provide for arbitrary or discretionary distributions. It goes without question that an organisation whose entire repertoire is less than 10% of the music performed by South African music users, but has been paid royalties due to rights holders it does not represent, will resort to arbitrary and/or discretionary distributions. Moreover, section 8(3) of the Regulations states that a collecting society shall distribute the amounts collected in a manner to reflect as nearly as possible the actual use of sound recordings and protected performances covered by the repertoire under its administration. The SABC payment to IMPRA violates section 8(3) since IMPRA has been paid for sound recordings and performances NOT covered by the repertoire under its administration.

In its communication to its few members, IMPRA disputed that they have been contacting you, our members, to apply for membership because they have collected your SABC royalties without your mandate. But most of you have been contacting us in the last four weeks indicating that you’ve been contacted by IMPRA to apply for membership because IMPRA has collected your royalties from the SABC when you are not signed with them. We, once again, thank for you for refusing to be used as fair game in the SABC/IMPRA game.

Finally, we would like to thank all music users, including commercial radio stations, that have abided by the legislation and Regulations and paid us. Their compliance with the law has led to SAMPRA distributing more than R230m of needletime rights royalties in the last five years.  The SABC is the only broadcaster whose royalties have not been received because they refuse to abide by the law and Regulations.

For more information on copyright compliant music users, please visit www.sampra.org.za/licensed-music-users.

Should you have any queries or concerns, you are more than welcome to reach out to us.


Pfanani Lishivha

Chief Executive Officer

Letter to SAMPRA Members

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Dear SAMPRA Members,

We thank you for remaining steadfast and refusing to be used as fair game during the current battle that we are facing as an organisation. Some of you have made us aware of the fact that you’ve been contacted by IMPRA urging you to apply for membership. This is a desperate act by IMPRA to gain you as members, since they have already claimed to be representing you.  The SABC also knew that they were donating artists’ royalties to the wrong organisation. Now that there’s a huge backlash against their shenanigans, they want you to help them get out of the mess they find themselves in.  

The following are facts IMPRA and the SABC have not disputed:

  1. SAMPRA has provided all necessary documentation to the SABC to prove its ownership of 93% repertoire. The SABC has refused to give SAMPRA any documentation to support its decision of allocating 75% of royalties to IMPRA;
  2. SAMPRA has proposed, to the SABC and IMPRA, that independent auditors should be appointed to audit the SABC’s playlists to determine ownership of repertoire. The SABC has ignored SAMPRA’s offer. Why is the SABC not willing to subject itself to independent auditing to verify repertoire ownership if the SABC is doing the right thing?
  3. SAMPRA has been very transparent in negotiations with the SABC, but the SABC’s transparency has been as clear as mud;
  4. SABC has shown complete disregard of copyright legislation;
  5. SAMPRA appealed to the Department of Communications (“the DoC”) to intervene in the saga. The DoC notified the SABC at the end of May 2018 that the DoC would have a meeting with the SABC to discuss this issue. The SABC decided, two days before the meeting with the DoC, to make an announcement and pay IMPRA. Why did the SABC rush to make an announcement two days before the SABC was scheduled to meet with the DoC on this matter? What was the rush? Was the SABC trying to frustrate the DoC’s intervention?
  6. All other broadcasters have been licensed and have paid SAMPRA on the basis of the requirements of copyright legislation and the verification of repertoire ownership. The SABC, the public broadcaster, is the only one that has refused to do things the right way. Why?
  7. SAMPRA is the only Needltime Rights society that has been processing and distributing royalties to record companies and recording artists since 2014. So far, more than R200m has been distributed. The SABC is the only broadcaster whose royalties have not been received because they refuse to abide by the law and regulations. Does the SABC believe they would solve the problem by donating money to an organisation that represents less than 5% of artists, and is now begging artists to join them?
  8. SAMPRA is the only Needletime Rights society that has licensed all broadcasters (except the SABC because they refuse to be licensed) and thousands of retail shops, restaurants, bars, buses, etc.;
  9. SAMPRA is the only Needletime Rights society that has the necessary infrastructure, knowledge and experience to process and pay royalties to deserving record companies and artists. We do not pay only the featured artist. We pay all artists that made a recorded contribution to a track that earned royalties;
  10. SAMPRA’s royalty statements, per earner, are readily available on request to rightholders who have earned royalties in distributions done thus far.

 This matter is far from over, and IMPRA’s celebrations are hollow. We are doing things according to the prescripts of the relevant legislation and regulations. That is why we are taking the SABC to court. At the end, the SABC will have to pay us the full amount owed to us.

We urge you to stay true to the course with us, as we continue to fight for what is right and to ensure that we get what is due to all of us.  Should you have any queries or concerns, you are more than welcome to reach out to us.


Pfanani Lishivha

SABC Once Again Undermines SAMPRA and the Livelihoods of South African Artists


 7 June 2018 | Yesterday it was announced that for the first time ever, the SABC will pay Needletime royalties to artists through the Independent Music Performing Rights Association (IMPRA). IMPRA will be receiving 75 percent of the R22 million earmarked for distribution to artists and producers.

While the South African Music Performance Rights Association (SAMPRA), the collective management organisation that administers Needletime rights on behalf of recording artists and record labels, would like to commend the SABC for finally taking the steps to pay the royalties that are the bread and butter of performing artists, it questions why the SABC has decided to split the share of royalties 25-75 in favour of IMPRA – especially when the matter still lies with the courts.
“We have, on more than one occasion, presented documentation to prove to the SABC that we own more than 90 percent of the repertoire. The SABC has purposefully ignored this information and decided that they will pay 75 percent of the royalties to IMPRA instead of at least 90 percent of the royalties to SAMPRA,” says SAMPRA CEO, Pfanani Lishivha.

Lishivha continues, “Our repertoire contains more than 90 percent of all the tracks played by radio stations, including SABC radio stations, across the country. We are, of course, taking this matter to the courts.”

SAMPRA can’t help but question the SABC’s decision and action to pay over money to IMPRA when there hasn’t been a ruling yet.

“The SABC has created the impression that SAMPRA doesn’t want to be paid by the SABC or has delayed payment. This is incorrect. We argue that payments should be made in accordance with the playlist. All the playlists indicate that we own at least 93 percent of the songs that the SABC and other commercial radio stations have been playing. Why then has IMPRA, who owns less than 10 percent of all songs broadcast in this country, been given the bulk of the payments due to our artists?” Lishivha asks.

This has forced SAMPRA to take legal action against the SABC. “We need to do all we can to ensure that the royalties that are fairly owed to performers and producers are paid to the correct artists and record companies,” concludes Lishivha.

This follows on from news last year that the SABC owes artists millions of rands in outstanding royalties for air play across more than 18 of its radio stations.

Interview with SAMPRA Chief Executive Officer: Pfanani Lishivha

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SAMPRA reacts with shock and distain on SABC’s announcement to pay IMPRA 75% of the 2014/15 licence fee.