Black artists denied their royalties

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Rodriguez is but one of many artists who never received their music royalties in South Africa, and they were mainly black.

On October 8 1962, Solomon Linda, the singer and composer of Mbube, which became the pop hit The Lion Sleeps Tonight and featured in the movie The Lion King, died without receiving royalties for his work.

Linda sold his rights of the song to Gallo Record Company for 10 shillings.

By 1949, Mbube had sold over 100 000 copies in South Africa.

In 2000, South African journalist Rian Malan wrote a feature article for the Rolling Stone, describing Linda’s story and estimating the song had earned $15 million (R135m) for its use in the The Lion King.

In 2004, Linda’s descendants, with the backing of the government and Gallo Records, sued the Walt Disney Company for its use in the The Lion King and stage musical without paying royalties to them.

The settlement reached between the parties was that Linda heirs would receive payment for past uses of The Lion Sleeps Tonight and an entitlement to future royalties from its worldwide use.

The Manhattan Brothers was a popular singing group in South Africa in the 1940s and 1950s.

Joe Mogotsi, a member of the group, wrote in his book, Mantindane, that the Manhattan Brothers’ recording career began to spiral soon after it signed with Gallo but knew nothing about copyright.

“Years later, when we found out about our rights, and wanted our dues from the songs we had written and recorded, we were told under South African law blacks were not entitled to royalties.” – Wiseman Khuzwayo

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