"The lawyers sleep tonight ..."

Neil Wilkof has sent the IPKat a link, which will perish on 21 April, to this CNN item. It tells the tale of three South African daughters of the man who wrote the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight": they have just won a six-year battle for royalties in a landmark case that could affect musicians worldwide.

The father, Solomon Linda, died in 1962 at the young age of 53. He composed his now-famous song in 1939, in a hostel that housed black migrant workers in Johannesburg. According to family lore, he wrote the song in a matter of minutes and was inspired by his childhood tasks of chasing prowling lions from the cattle he herded. In keeping with Zulu tradition the song was sung a cappella. Linda's innovation was to add his falsetto voice, an overlay of haunting "eeeeeees" to the baritone and bass main line (this style is now called Mbube, 'lion', in South Africa). The song sold more than 100,000 copies over a decade, probably making it Africa's first big pop hit.

In the 1950s, when apartheid laws robbed blacks of negotiating rights, Linda sold the worldwide copyright to Gallo Records of South Africa for 10 shillings (less than US$1.70). Gallo apparently tried to sell the work in the United States, but American folk singer Pete Seeger (left) had by then adapted a version that he called "Wimoweh" (this song was a hit in the United Kingdom for the Karl Denver Trio). Subsequently, known as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and attributed to George Weiss, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, it became one of the best-known songs in the world.

South African copyright lawyer Owen Dean (right, of Spoor & Fisher) argued successfully, for Linda's heirs, that under the (long-expired UK) Copyright Act 1911, which was in force in South Africa at the time Linda composed his song, all rights reverted to the heirs, who were entitled to renegotiate royalties. This statute affects all countries that were part of the British Empire at that time, or around a third of the world.

The IPKat smiles at the thought that the lawyers, having made their kill, can now enjoy their feast and sleep soundly in the knowledge that they will for once be lionised by the creative professions. Merpel says, how did the Americans manage to credit so many composers for such a teensy-weensie bit of song?

Another history of the same song here
Words (in English and Zulu) here
Sleeping lions here

Copycat judge stands down

The IPKat is endebted to his friend Richard Donaldson for sending him this link to The Age, which (Australia) reports that a magistrate has temporarily stepped down after large slabs of a colleague's judgment were included without attribution in a decision that took more than three years to deliver. Jennifer Rimmer also failed to inform the parties that she later altered her judgment; she has however agreed to take two months' leave, during which she will undergo counselling.

Fellow magistrates blew the whistle on the 44-year-old, who was appointed from the Family Court registry in November 2001. Within months she was complaining about the workload and requesting more resources. The Chief Federal Magistrate, John Pascoe, said the court's Internal Judgement Committee told him last May that her decision in a sexual harassment case involving a Brisbane hotel had lifted key parts of a judgement by a Melbourne magistrate, John Walters.

The case was heard on 31 November 2001 [the IPKat says, oh no it wasn't- there's no such date], but Ms Rimmer did not hand down her decision until 1 April of last year. After repeated requests from Mr Pascoe, she altered her judgement to contain attribution, but failed to alert the parties — a remarkable lapse for a judicial officer and a fact of which Mr Pascoe says he became aware only two weeks ago. According to Mr Pascoe:
"The use of material without attribution ... is simply unacceptable in all areas of professional life".
The IPKat says Jennifer should come to England. There, s.45(1) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 says: "Copyright is not infringed by anything done for the purposes of parliamentary or judicial proceedings". Should be alright there, then. Merpel adds, there's also an interesting question whether a judge can assert his or her right to be known as the author of a judgment (and thus be entitled to attribution by a subsequent judge ... More to the point, should we send copyists away on leave and give them counselling?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

re your invitation to migration, Australian copyright law is of course alerady similar to the UK on this point (having been derived from your earlier sources):

43 Reproduction for purpose of judicial proceedings or professional

(1) The copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is not infringed by anything done for the purposes of a judicial
proceeding or of a report of a judicial proceeding....

whether or not there is an attribution/moral rights issue from a legal perspective is of course not really the point - its how the thing looks & the messages sent...

love the website, keep up the good work

from one of your ex students (91-92)


Powered by Blogger.