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Copyrighting or stealing? 

By Jeoffrey Mukubi

There can be many reasons as to why an artist would copy or in this case infringe another artist’s work. The most common being the intention to learn, to create something new, and to honour or just play around. But sometimes, a person copies intending to take advantage of another artist. Or the intention of skipping the hard work of creating their original art and passing someone else’s art as their own and eventually making money off it.

Although it has been around for millennia, allegations of copyright infringements recently took a sharp turn in the Namibian local music industry, with artists usually getting the shorthand. Some examples include a local printing shop illegally pirating the late Jomolizo, Shitana and Satlam’s music for his gain in 2019. 

Another case was when local social media went haywire and tried to boycott internationally acclaimed Tanzanian singer Diamond Platnumz hit single ‘The One’ alleging that he stole it from King Tee Dee’s ‘One I love’ and deliberately left out the Namibian. Diamonds management did, however, clear up the saga, after it was learned that both he and King Tee Dee shared the producer’s beat, who ironically is signed under Diamond Platnumz’s Wasabi record label. 

More recently Exit got dragged on Twitter for allegedly copying his ‘Forever’ album cover from a picture on the internet that closely resembles his latest project.  The artist later took to his social media an apology and said that he will go back to the drawing board and change the cover.

Gazza then got embroiled after another music enthusiast pointed out that his hit single ‘Moses’ which was released earlier this year sounds like another song by Martin Newsongz ‘Cucumber love’, which was produced by Emerald P, who then licensed it to Gazza as well. 

Speaking to unwrap.online recently award-winning musician and veteran music advisor said that anything that one can imagine has been based on what you have seen or been exposed to before. “If you use somebody’s work, it is better to rather edit the work to an extent that it is almost undeniably your work, otherwise the less you change the worse it looks for you. If you don’t change enough or if you are not taken to court for copyright infringement then you will be seen as a copy-cat, a lazy creative or someone who will not be respected,” he said. 

Quotes like “ART HAS NO RULES” or “GOOD ARTIST’S COPY, GREAT ARTIST’S STEAL” make reverence to this point as it shows that there is nothing new under the sun and copyright is legal when permission is given by the creator or his/her estate to the artists using the original works. 

He continued by saying that inspiration is more rewarding than stealing other people’s work. “Similarities between one’s work and another has to be so insignificant, that I can quantify and qualify your work as original and not a copy,”

“The most important thing, however, is that any decent and self-respecting creator is driven by the ability and the need to create something that communicates their message, so even if they’re inspired by an artist they should be able to have something original,” he concluded. 

The entertainment industry’s primary product will, however, remain intellectual property which hopefully will always be protected by copyrights, TRADEMARKS, and the right of publicity, because it seems that since the age of social media the concern of ownership and use of people’s intellectual property will never come to an end.

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