THE National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) has said it would not strip popular Afro-pop singer Mukudzei Mukombe, better known as Jah Prayzah, of the best creativity award he scooped at the 2014 National Arts Merit Awards despite stealing the soundtrack of an African movie for his winning song.
Stakeholders in the music industry have been calling on the NACZ to withdraw the award as Jah Prayzah had not been creative in the winning song Mwana Musikana from the album Tsviriyo, but simply stole from Ghanaian singer Emmanuel Samini’s 2007 hit track Samini and presented it as his own.
NACZ spokesperson Catherine Mthombeni said copyright theft issues are criminal activities like any other theft and encouraged anyone whose rights have been infringed to report the culprit to the police.
“NACZ has no arresting powers. On the issue of Jah Prayzah, council has not received any formal report of the alleged plagiarism by Mukombe. As soon as we do, we would obviously advise the aggrieved to report the culprit to the police,” Mthombeni said in an e-mailed response.
The Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura) said artistes should approach original composers to arrange performing rights to avoid copyright breaches.
Zimura executive director Polisile Ncube said in the event of a copyright breach, as in the Jah Prayzah case, the original composer can seek redress through her organisation.
She said Zimura would prosecute the offending party using the Copyright Act.
Section 17 of the Act allows a musician to obtain redress and enjoy benefits of his or her sweat from the proceeds accrued by the thieving singer.
She indicated that lyrics on any song could be submitted to Zimura if there was a dispute.
“Subject to this Act, copyright in a literary or musical work shall vest in the owner the exclusive right to do or to authorise the doing of any of the following acts in Zimbabwe like reproducing the work, importing the work into Zimbabwe or exporting it from Zimbabwe, otherwise than for the personal and private use of person importing it or exporting it, causing the work to be transmitted in cable programme service, unless the service transmits a lawful broadcast, including the work, and is operated by the original broadcaster. Registered lyrics protect the artiste,” Ncube said.
Ncube urged all artistes to register their lyrics with Zimura and not to steal other artistes’ works like Jah Prayzah did.
In addition, Ncube said a number of dancehall artistes steal tunes, lyrics and sometimes complete songs from Jamaican musicians and always get away with it.
Jah Prayzah used ignorance as a defence saying he was not aware that using the soundtrack was a copyright infringement.
The Copyright Act subsists for the life of the composer and for 50 years after his or her death.
According to sources, NACZ does not involve other stakeholders in its awards selection resulting in such oversights, which could have been detected to reduce embarrassment.