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Jah Signal’s Copyright Conundrum: Between Legal Rights and Cultural Progress

Made by Kuda (MADE IN ZWE), a gift to Plot Mhako and the earGROUND vision.

Jah Signal’s Copyright Conundrum: Between Legal Rights and Cultural Progress

In Zimbabwe, the intersection of law and artistry is a subject of rich debate that is often overlooked. However, the topic has been trending after being ignited by the Jah Signal and The Charambas debacle where the former is accused of infringing the latters copyrights on a number of songs facing copyright violation issues. This situation has cast a spotlight on the tension between artistic freedom and intellectual property rights”a tension that is particularly palpable in the realm of music.

by Israel Sebenzo

The Zimbabwean Constitution, in its defense of freedom of artistic expression, serves as both a shield and a spear in this discourse. Section 61(b) of the Constitution notably provides for freedom of artistic expression, encompassing the liberty to seek, receive, and communicate ideas and information in the arts. This right is pivotal, as it represents the nations acknowledgment of arts role as a societal cornerstone and as a vehicle for human expression and cultural dialogue.

However, this freedom is not absolute and does not exist in a vacuum. It intersects with other rights, such as the moral and economic rights of original creators to control and benefit from their works. This is where organizations like ZIMURA come into play, mediating the often complex relationship between original and derivative works.

From a cultural standpoint, Jah Signals adaptations of gospel songs into secular music are not just legal matters but are also about the evolution of music. Music, by its nature, is fluid and often builds upon previous works. This is how genres are born and how they thrive. But how does this sit within the framework of the law?

The Fishers of Men’s claim and Jah Signals subsequent YouTube takedowns are a reminder that the law is a living entity, one that must adapt to new realities. The question we must ask is whether our current legal framework is equipped to handle the nuances of cultural evolution, particularly in an age where digital platforms magnify the reach and impact of artistic works.

Furthermore, Jah Signal’s case is a microcosm of the broader challenges faced by artists in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. How do we foster creativity while respecting ownership? How do we ensure that artists can draw from their cultural heritage without fear of legal repercussion?

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The answers to these questions are not simple, but they are necessary. As Zimbabwe continues to navigate its path of national development, as outlined in Sections 13 and 16 of the Constitution, which promote self-reliance and cultural values, we must also consider how these aims align with the protection of artists rights and the facilitation of creative expression.

In my view, Jah Signal’s predicament should catalyze a national conversation on reforming copyright laws to better reflect the realities of the modern music industry. This conversation should include artists, legal experts, policymakers, and cultural institutions. Only through such a collective effort can we hope to balance the scales between protecting individual rights and fostering a dynamic cultural landscape.

As a nation, we stand at a crossroads between tradition and progress. It is incumbent upon us to navigate this terrain thoughtfully, ensuring that our rich musical heritage continues to resonate and inspire, within the framework of a just and equitable legal system.



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Made by Kuda (MADE IN ZWE)
A gift to Plot Mhako and the earGROUND vision.
Truly, for the culture.

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