Companies that Participated in ‘Jerusalema Challenge’ To Pay Royalty Bills

Master KG Ain the studio to record Jerusalema. Image source: Open Mic Productions

CAPE TOWN, South Africa— Companies that Used Master KG’s ‘Jerusalema’ song to push their brand’s social capital may be liable to pay royalties for the music.

“Jerusalema Challenge” has been one way in which people have built a sense of togetherness in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic that led to countries’ on lockdown as sadness covered the face of the globe with thousands succumbing to the virus.

Many corporates, families, groups, schools, healthcare providers joined the challenge, posting videos on social media, showcasing their dancing skills as they swung to the rhythm of the catchy and comforting tune.

The fine was announced on a South African News Channel during an interview with Dumisani Motsamai, an entertainment lawyer who is in charge of legal and business affairs for Open Mic Productions – that’s Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode’s record label.

Motsamai said there are several versions of the challenge that people took advantage of for their own gains during the lockdown.

“There are situations where a child and their family are in their living room and they are doing the challenge, or they are outside and doing the challenge. That’s perfectly fine. But we have seen these challenges taking it a little bit too far, where really, what has been happening here is that people have been pushing their brands,” he said.

The lawyer told he observed how companies commercialized the song, using the song to exploit brands. However, there’s a thin line between companies that used the song to showcase their products and those that used it for fun.

“Some of them will show maybe their logo at the beginning and it’s all about the dance. But some of them when you look at them, it’s all about the brand, the company that is doing the challenge and little about the challenge.” The Open Mic Productions lawyer explained.

He added, “Those are the ones that Warner and Open Mic has found. If the challenge is taken and someone is dancing with their family, individually, and has nothing to do with brand endorsement, has nothing to do with using the song to push a particular brand and put the brand in the face of people with the song in the background, then that’s fine.”

Heart-warming videos of frontline health workers taking up the challenge to uplift the nation’s spirit won’t be targeted, according to the lawyer.

Motsamai said Open Mic Productions was investigating ”quite a few” local brands exploiting the song and will request payments from them.

“We will start politely [asking for fees] locally because we have seen there has been a lot of skipping of the line. We do owe it, not just to Open Mic, but to the people who were part of it. [Open Mic] owns the master, but we also have a duty to pay royalties to the people whose sound is embedded, whose performance is in the master, and in this case, it is Master KG and Nomcebo,” Motsamai explained.

The record company Warner International, with which Master KG is under contract, already sent royalty invoices to various video posters in Germany, demanding license fees for the use of the song in the videos.

A spokesperson from Warner Germany revealed that private persons would not be fined or need to obtain a license to use “Jerusalema” as part of the challenge in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. But the record company’s stance is different if “there is an advertising or image-promoting effect in favor of an institution, organization or company.” That is where license negotiations start.

The matter has led to outrage on social media, questions on standby whether Warner’s move is Morally right, though legally it is clear the song is copyright protected and may not be distributed without consent.