Copyrights And Royalties: Is Nash TV A Savior Of The Arts Or Villain? Is ZIMURA There For Artists?

I remember a while back when Kanye West exploded on Twitter in a rant about how the music industry was exploiting artists with slave contracts. He was unrelenting in his tirade and even posted screenshots of his contracts. The whole issue went viral. And yes they were people who weren't on Kanye West's side, after all, he's a character that's been known to rub a lot of people off the wrong way. But the Twitter experts came out and there was a general consensus that indeed Kanye was under a slave contract. A few people from within America's music industry even spoke out. 

Is Nash TV A Savior Of The Arts Or Villain? Is ZIMURA There For Artists?

Yet generally, there wasn't that anger in the air because looking at Kanye most people felt he was well remunerated for whatever contract he was in. This is also true for most big acts in America. The fame comes with a matching bank account. On the other hand, this can't be said for the Zimbabwean situation. Over the last decade or so and maybe further back, it has always seemed like the Zimbabwean arts industry was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. And this wasn't just seen in stars of the present but stars of the past. So many times have stars of yesteryear been at the mercy of the public's generosity. Famous stars who graced our screens hitting rock bottom and begging for aid.

However, March 2018 arrived and in came Nash TV, the brainchild of Tinashe Mutarisi and a new beacon of hope for Zimbabwe's arts industry. A saviour of the arts had arrived. A home not only for music but for web series, live concerts and almost any event requiring the platform. In just three years they would amass over 140 thousand subscribers on YouTube and more than half a million followers across social media. A giant home for music and for promoting the arts, the number one cheerleader for even the underdogs. At least that's how everyone saw them, well until this past week when 4 paragraphs from a Nash TV artist contract were leaked.

Is Nash TV A Savior Of The Arts Or Villain? Is ZIMURA There For Artists?

A lot were quick to condemn it, calling it modern-day slavery and a few even called what Nash TV had done the heist of the century. Entertainment journalist Plot Mhako is said to have leaked the contract, in a stand to fight for the rights of the arts industry. People called it exploitative and they said the platform was taking advantage of poorly educated artists who couldn't afford lawyers. There was a lot of noise about it and a lot of think pieces were shared. We contacted an IP lawyer for a basic interpretation of the leaked 4 paragraphs of the contract and she said:

"This part of the contract doesn't state anything about royalties but I assume that the artist would be receiving some sort of remuneration. In getting that remuneration, the artist in this contract waives their rights to copyrights. Basically, the artist is selling their work. Because what is supposed to happen usually is for example if I publish a short story in the Intwasa anthology, the copyrights stay with me. I have a public record of ownership, there is a presumption of ownership and before that work is imitated or used in other forms I am supposed to get an application for use. 

Copyrights protect the manifestation of ideas. So instead of giving the person who created or manifested the idea the rights over the work, this contract is basically giving Nash TV all the power. So your work can be used in campaigns that don't go along with your values and you wouldn't have any say. In signing this contract, the artist also waives the right to sue. Altogether it's basically a creative prison..."

It should be noted that the contract bears a striking resemblance to the TikTok creator's terms and conditions. However, the second to last paragraph on the Nash TV contract is where they differ and that's the most important paragraph to note. As they say, the devil is in the detail. Nash TV's contract was absolutely in its control without leaving room to sue in the future. From the paragraphs present Nash could alter an artist's work and he wouldn't earn any royalties from that derived work.

One artist we talked to expressed shock at the fact that such a contract had been created and that artists signed it. He outright declared he wouldn't sign any contract with those 4 paragraphs.

Is Nash TV A Savior Of The Arts Or Villain? Is ZIMURA There For Artists?

From the backlash, Nash TV was quick to release a press statement. All artists were welcomed to claim copyrights of their works and Nash TV announced they hadn't made any profit from Nash TV as a whole.

Now is that possible? The short answer is yes

As of 23 April the Nashtv YouTube channel had published 708 videos, they had 142K subscribers and 32,315,037 views. Social Blade analytics had the channel with an earning potential of between $825 - $13.4K. The earning potential however represents the channel in its present state and not what it made through the years of growth. So the average earning on a million views is between $2K - $5 and by Nashtv's 32 million views that's an earning of $64K - $160K. Nashtv has invested in a state-of-the-art studio and working with an average cost of $100 - $150 per video, those 708 videos come out to a cost of about $70,800 - $106,200. 

It should be noted though that some of Nashtv's content is longer than the 3-4 minute colour vibes videos and they have a web series in Babamunini Ninjo, along with the live concerts they stream. On top of this Nashtv also has "Riddims" they sponsor, famously the Nash Nation Riddim that gave us Hello Mwari. Being the most watched song on the riddim, Hello Mwari earned Jah Master the $1,000 prize money. In more recent memory Holy Ten walked away with the $3,000 prize money after Mwana Ndakubirayi was the most-watched song on "Nash Nation Vibes".

So how do Riddims work?

A riddim in other terms is a beat or groove. Generally in the Zimbabwean context, a riddim is sponsored by an individual or company for example Nashtv has sponsored their Nash Nation riddims, Golix sponsored the Bitcoin riddim, Platinum fuels sponsored the Platinum fuels riddim, Zimcelebs sponsored their Frosty riddim and so forth. From my understanding, the copyrights of the music are supposed to belong to the sponsors of the riddim depending on whatever remuneration the artist is supposed to get.

However, in recent times I didn't really understand if this was indeed the setup. Poptain and Allanah sang their hit song Fadza Mutengi and the initial video was posted on Nashtv's colour vibes. However, a few months later Poptain and Allanah had done a new video for the track independent of Nashtv which led to Nashtv filing suit. I don't know how the suit was resolved but it seems Poptain and Allanah won because Fadza Mutengi was deleted from Nashtv but remained on Poptain's channel.

So who is supposed to protect artists?

Zimbabwe Music Rights Association - ZIMURA for short. An Association whose purpose is to manage the Music Rights of Music Composers/Authors and Publishers. Established in 1982, the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (ZIMURA) is an association of composers and publishers of music that was created with the purpose of protecting the rights of musicians under copyright law. The association protects the performing rights of authors and collects royalties on their behalf. It also renders a valued service to music users by providing them with a single central source where applications should be made by anyone wishing to perform a musical work in public or broadcast it or relay it via a diffusion service. 

But is ZIMURA doing its job? This is complicated and on the surface, a lot of artists would say no. ZIMURA has an inaccessible website, they're limited in their diffusion of information and artists who are supposed to benefit most from their operations have no idea how the association works. Recently Levels took to social media to voice his concerns about ZIMURA and in one post the producer stated he hadn't received a single dollar in royalties from the conception of Chillspot Records until now. 

Is Nash TV A Savior Of The Arts Or Villain? Is ZIMURA There For Artists?

ZIMURA issued a formal reply explaining their position but the whole situation reveals the huge gap they have in fulfilling their mandate. They're not meeting artists halfway and the onus is on artists to approach them. You could be due for a payout right now but without reaching out to ZIMURA and its offices you won't ever know. And if music industry giants like Levels don't know how this system works then what more new artists?

The Nashtv contract saga seems to have energized artists around the board to go after what they are owed. Recently ExQ's song Wakatemba which features Tocky Vibes was taken down from YouTube after Tocky Vibes laid a copyright claim. According to reports it seems after creating Wakatemba, Tocky Vibes and ExQ agreed that in exchange for Tocky's feature, ExQ would appear on a Tocky song. However, Tocky says ExQ’s camp reneged, on the agreement. This is one more reason artists should consult lawyers and work with properly signed agreements.

The arts industry is almost always on bad footing in Zimbabwe and if artists are being exploited, it'll never grow to its full potential.

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