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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist

Restaurant chain group mum on criminal charges laid against it by Sampra

In South Africa royalties are mostly administered by Recording Industry South Africa (RISA), while SAMPRA collects royalties for music performances.

The South African Music Performance Rights Association (Sampra) has allegedly laid charges against restaurant chain group Life & Brand Portfolio, which owns Tiger’s Milk and La Parada among others, for illegally playing music at their eateries.

The statement issued by Sampra’s Chief Marketing Officer, Tiyani Maluleke last Thursday said the charges were laid against the eatery group, “for failure to pay the applicable license fee related to music that Sampra manages on behalf of its members.”

According to Sampra, Life & Brand Portfolio infringed the Needletime or Neighbouring Rights, which pertain to the right of the record company and recording artist to receive royalties whenever their commercially released tracks are used in public.

“This effectively means that the artists whose music is used by these restaurants will not be able to earn Needletime Rights royalties, even though these restaurants are making money in their restaurants as a result of using their intellectual property,” averred the statement.

Investigation ongoing

Speaking to The Citizen, Western Cape Saps Media Liaison Officer Sergeant Wesley Twigg confirmed that the case was opened at the Woodstock Police Station.

“The mentioned case was opened at Woodstock Saps on 12 December 2023 re: infringement of copyrights,” said Twigg.

The Sergeant confirmed that the case has now been transferred for further investigation.

“The case was transferred to Commercial Crimes Investigations Unit for further investigations. Investigations continue.”

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Life & Brand Portfolio mum

Life & Brand Portfolio, which has its headquarters in the Western Cape is a vertically integrated casual dining group rooted on three values: Creativity, Consistency and Culture.

The group’s restaurants can be found throughout the country.

“These restaurants have been playing music belonging to recording artists and recording companies at their stores, unlawfully. They have refused to pay the applicable fees that would enable them to comply with the prescribed legislative provisions,” Sampra CEO Pfanani Lishivha is quoted as saying in the statement.

The Citizen sent questions to Life & Brand Portfolio, then spoke to the company’s receptionist after the company did not respond to our email.

Maluleke also didn’t respond to follow up questions relating to the statement and the last Annual Report released by Sampra.

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Royalty red tape

Commendable as the move to collect Neighbouring Rights on behalf of recording artists, in 2021 SAMPRA was accused of not distributing R460 million.

The music industry is globally regulated by the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI).

It administers music performance royalties across Africa, except in South Africa, where the music royalties are administered mostly by Recording Industry South Africa (RISA).

Sampra collects royalties for music performance while RISA/RAV collects royalties for videos and SAMRO collects royalties for published music, such as composers and publishers.

“The Department of Trade and Industry has come up with new proposals,” copyright lawyer Owen Dean told GrounpUp in 2021.  

“But they do not understand the music industry and therefore all that these will do is add another layer of bureaucracy to an already over-bureaucratised field. There are a number of collection agencies, all doing the same job and charging high fees. Why this is necessary, is a mystery.”

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