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investment in the local
music industry


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copyright owners

The South African voice of Music Publishing

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Upholding the value and safeguarding the intellectual property of publishers and composers.

Championing the interests of our members at all times.

We are members of ICMP

ICMP is the world trade association representing the interests of the music publishing community internationally.

News, Workshops & Events and Blogs.

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We make sure you are able to catch up on the latest important news within the local and global music publishing industry.


Workshop are open to all our members and range from essential small business skills development to networking with people that will benefit your business.


Connecting professionals within the music and entertainment industry bringing their own unique insights to the discussion.
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Music Publishers Association Of South Africa’s Newly Pledged MandateArticle originally posted by Le'Afrinique Le’Afrinique, pronounced “Leh-Aa-Frii-Neek” meaning (don’t look it up… lol) “Uniquely African”, is a culture news platform originating from South Africa. With...

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MPASA championing the copyrights of its members

MPASA championing the copyrights of its members

Our Newly Pledged Mandate Music Publishers Association of South Africa are championing the copyrights of its members with a newly pledged mandate.Music Publishers Association of South Africa are championing the copyrights of its members with a newly pledged mandate...

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SA Copyright Law Captured

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How the copyright amendment bill, 2017, and the performers’ protection amendment bill, 2016, are likely to impact upon SA copyright industries, including the music industry.

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What Is Music Publishing?
The business of music publishing is concerned with developing, protecting and valuing music. The business is extensive and demands a variety of skills. Music publishers play a vital role in the development of new music and in taking care of the business side, allowing composers and songwriters to concentrate on their creative work.
What Rights Do Music Publishers Invest In?
There are a number of different rights in a song.  They are sometimes not found in legislation, but they are administered differently for commercial reasons. A publishing contract will therefore make reference to:

Mechanical rights: the right to make a reproduction or a copy – often administered collectively by CAPASSO.

Performing rights: the right to publicly perform or otherwise communicate to the public (eg via a musical digital service and/or a broadcast).  These are often administered collectively with other publishers via SAMRO.

Graphic rights: the right to graphically reproduce music notation (sheet music). These are often sublicensed via a print publisher.

Production rights:: the right to lend instrumental parts for music not available for purchase due to length or complexity of arrangements.


How Is A Music Publisher Different To A Record Company?
A music publisher invests in songwriters and composers and controls musical compositions, whereas a record company invests in artists and controls master recordings. Not all songwriters and composers are recording artists and many recording artists don’t write their own songs. Money is collected separately for songs and for master recordings.
For example, Ed Sheeran co-writes his own songs but also writes for other artists such as One Direction. Therefore, he has a music publishing agreement as well as a record deal.

Some of the writers that Ed Sheeran co-writes with on songs that he records are not recording artists. Therefore, their only source of income will be from their music publishing royalties.

What Is Copyright?
Copyright protects creative works and enables composers, literary authors and other creators to be paid for their work. Copyright is the means by which those who create and own works (e.g. music and lyrics) can control who makes use of each work and the circumstances in which it is used, to ensure that the integrity and value of the work are respected.

Copyright protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films, broadcasts and the typographical arrangement of a published edition (i.e. how it looks on the page).

Copyright in a song

Every song comprises two copyright works:

  • The music itself (a musical work)
  • The lyrics/words (a literary work)


Copyright automatically subsists in a musical or literary work provided that it meets the following eligibility criteria:

  • The work must be original in the sense that it has not been copied from any other work
  • The work must be recorded in writing or otherwise (eg onto CD, LP or digital file)

Rights of the owner

If you own the copyright in either type of work, you have the sole right do any of the following, or to authorise (eg by way of a licence or assignment) another to do so:

  • Copy the work
  • Issue, lend or rent copies of the work to the public
  • Perform, show or play the work in public
  • Communicate the work to the public (i.e. broadcast it via television, radio, online etc.)
  • Adapt the work

NB: Copyright can only be assigned in a written document that is signed by both parties.

Arrangements, recordings and printed editions

The work of musical arrangers and editors also benefits from copyright protection.

If your work is subsequently recorded, the sound recording itself will have separate copyright protection. The producer of the recording will own the copyright in the sound recording.

If your work is published in a printed edition, the typographical arrangement of that printed edition will be separately protected and the publisher of that edition will own the copyright.

What Is Production Music?
Production music is the term used to describe music which is created with the intention of it being used as background music for trailers, movies, TV programmes, computer games and other uses. Typically production music is made in advance and an audiovisual producer will ask for a type of music using descriptive terms eg “something loud and rocky” “something romantic”.

Those descriptive terms can get very detailed. Production music libraries will then pitch music that they have in their catalogue for use. Production music publishers tend to represent the master recording right as well as the publishing right as there is no “recording artist” as such.

Can I Sample Someone Else’s Music?
Sampling is a form of borrowing from someone else’s music. If the music or any words/lyrics are still in copyright you may only use a sample or quote with the prior permission of the copyright owners.

The copyright owners can decide on what basis they are prepared to consider licensing this use. You may well be required to pay a fee, to assign part of the copyright in your work to the copyright owners and to credit the original writers and copyright owners as a condition of any licence. Equally the copyright owners are entitled to refuse permission in which case the sample must not be used.

Similarly, if you want to sample a recording of a song or piece of music then the recording will still be in copyright and can only be sampled with permission from the copyright owner of the recording (usually the record company), and from the performer(s) in addition to the copyright owner of the music and of the words.

The sample used will infringe copyright in the music and/or the sound recording, as the case may be if it is a ‘substantial part’ of the original and is used without the necessary permissions. The sample is considered ‘substantial’ by reference to its quality rather than its length. If it is recognisable, however short, as coming from the original piece of music or recording then it should be regarded as being substantial and the necessary permissions should be sought. If you are in any doubt, apply for permission.

Can I Make Arrangements Of Original Music?

If you wish to arrange music which is still in copyright you may only do so with the prior permission of the copyright owner with certain limited exceptions. There are a number of reasons why it is important to respect the rights of the copyright owner and seek permission before arranging music:

  • An illegal copy or arrangement deprives the composer of the music of the chance to earn income from his/her creative work;
  • The publisher is deprived of the opportunity to recoup the investment made in the production of the original music;
  • The publisher is unable to monitor the use and popularity of a particular work.

The use of copyright music without permission is a form of theft which damages composers and publishers. It discourages composers, who will look to other ways of earning a living. It deters publishers from investing in the production of music and it denies them information about the use of music which would guide further investment decisions. A publisher may allow a work to go out of print believing that there is a lack of demand for that particular work when the opposite may, in fact, be true.

How do I know if a piece of music is protected by copyright?

This question must be asked in relation to the three separate elements to be found within printed music, namely the music itself, any words and the printed edition itself.

  • The Music: If the composer, writer, arranger or editor of the music is still alive or died within the last 60 years the music will still be in copyright.
  • The Words: If the author of the words is still alive or died within the last 60 years then the words will still be in copyright.
  • The Printed Edition: If the edition was printed within the last 30 years then the edition is still in copyright. This is so, regardless of whether either the words or the music contained within that edition are still in copyright or out of copyright.

In certain cases limited copying is allowed, for example, for the purposes of private research and study and for use in examinations other than those involving instrumental performance. The rules of copying and arranging music need to be carefully observed to avoid infringing copyright. Mindful of the complexity of this area and of the sometimes restrictive provisions in the copyright legislation as far as performers and teachers are concerned.


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Contact Us

Would you like to find out more about the Music Publishers Association of South Africa? Fill in this form, let us know how we can assist you and we’ll get back to you soon.

Select an option

I agree to the Terms of Service

Our Location

8th Floor, 20 De Korte Street, Braamfontein, 2001.

Give us a call on

Tel: +27 11 447 8870

Send a message