n SA Mercantile Law Journal = SA Tydskrif vir Handelsreg - To publish or not to publish : a critical consideration of the role of the music publisher today : analyses

Volume 24, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1015-0099
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2185



One of the exclusive 'bundle of rights' that the owner of the copyright in a literary or musical work has is 'publishing the work if it was hitherto unpublished' (s 6() of the Copyright Act 98 of 1978). The first owner of the copyright in a work is its author (s 21(1)()). The author remains the owner of copyright in the work until he or she transfers ownership to another by way of assignment or through testamentary disposition, or where the copyright is transferred by operation of law (s 22(1)). The exclusive right to publish a work is therefore the author's, unless the latter assigns this right to another person. The right to publish a work is not one that vests in some other entity, such as those called 'publishers' in the music industry, with whom the author has to negotiate to get his or her works published. It is a right that vests in the author, and music publishers may own or control it only if transferred to them by the author. This is important to note because many authors of copyright in musical works (commonly known as 'composers', though the term 'composer' is itself not used in the Copyright Act) are under the impression, or they are made to believe, that they need to have a music publisher to get their musical works published. (In this analysis the expression 'authors of musical works' and the more popular expression, 'songwriters' are used interchangeably.)

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