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Is SA Turning A Blind Eye To Music Piracy?

The music industry has been fighting a bitter battle with online piracy since the early 2000s when Napster first allowed for peer to peer file sharing in the early days of the internet. Fast forward almost two decades later and the industry is fighting a different battle, the advent of streaming services, royalties and fair use. Music is still a fairly lucrative business, but in terms of revenue, it is a shadow of its former self. As the fight back against subscription based mediums Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Youtube rages on, the age old peer to peer file sharing issue continues unabated.

One of the most prolific come-ups in the South African music context, Cassper Nyovests come-up, saw the popularization of free online file sharing sites, particularly datafilehost. As the artist popularly shared his music on the file sharing site in the build up to his debut album release, his music became incredibly accessible, but also vulnerable to piracy. As Cassper went on to become of the biggest artists on the continent, and ironically, one of the best selling, various artists began to adapt Cassper’s come-up blueprint. It became customary for artists to drop their music on file sharing sites for free download. This birthed a culture of devaluing the cost of music.

We have since seen the industry move away from online file sharing sites but fans continue to regard music as free content, which has seen the proliferation of illegal music sites. The South African music industry seems to be turning a blind eye to illegal music sites that readily host local music available for free download.

One year old Fakaza.com is one of the most prominent local music piracy sites out there, the site styles itself as a “South African music site founded in September 2016 following the growth of South African music worldwide. Fakaza.com publishes latest urban releases from South African musicians across several genres including Hip Hop, G Qom, Kwaito and Afro House music. The site has grown to become a leading source for all things South African music since it was founded.”

Nigerian site Naijavibes has an entire page dedicated to South African music downloads, the site positions itself as a platform to promoting promising upcoming artistes and young Nigerians who aim to have a life in the music industry a platform to get their songs heard. The site has an interesting disclaimer on the site “the audio files, videos and Images provided on Naijavibes.com is for promotional purposes only. NaijaVibes.com does not claim ownership of any of the songs and videos that we upload and any copyright infringement complaints will be executed immediately. If you feel any of our uploads infringes on your copyright, kindly contact us and we will take down the content immediately. It is our policy to honor all take-down requests!”.

Then there are massive Facebook pages linked to WhatsApp groups that operate as file sharing platforms. One of the most notorious pages, SA Hip Hop Download Music Links Storage 3rd boasts just over 37k followers. The page shares music through datafilehost, consistently dropping music hours after official releases on paid for platforms. Page admin Senzo Samkello has created an engaging audience through illegal music piracy.

Given some attention, record labels and copyright owners could easily shutdown these platforms, if the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is still able to monitor and shutdown online copyright infringement to this day, the local industry has no reason to be turning a blind eye to this level of criminality.

At the time of posting this article, Shekhinah’s Sony Music Entertainment released debut album Rose Gold had garnered 51k+ downloads on datafilehost. The industry needs to take a serious look at itself.

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