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Used 'Jerusalema' for your company video? A bill could be coming your way

While members of the public who used the song for a bit of fun don't have to worry too much, those who used it for their own endorsements are in for a rude awakening.

A screengrab via JAWS shows Palestinians taking part in the Jerusalema dance challenge.

CAPE TOWN - Master KG's Jerusalema was the sound of 2020. It was the song that launched countless homemade challenge videos and even found its way into a presidential address last September.

"There can be no better way to celebrate our South Africanness than joining the global phenomenon that is spreading across the world, and that is the _Jerusalema_ dance challenge. So I urge all of you to take up this challenge."

President Cyril Ramaphosa, 16 September 2020

Many South Africans and others across the world took up the challenge. Workplaces got involved and people marshalled their kids to join in, posting their videos on social media.

Type "Jerusalema challenge" into YouTube and the results go on for pages. The official music video has clocked over 344 million views on YouTube. Master KG bagged the Best African Act award at the MTV European Music Awards, beating Nigerian superstars Burna Boy and Rema among others.

READ: Jerusalema is a global lockdown hit

News in the past few days that Warner International sent royalty invoices to various video posters in Germany sparked an outcry on social media - and just a little bit of panic.

The music giant charged various German government entities for using the song in their versions of the challenge. So what does that mean for us? Can anyone who filled some bored downtime during lockdown perfecting the moves and sharing their effort expect a bill for their troubles?

Eyewitness News spoke to Dumisani Motsamai, an entertainment lawyer and the man who takes care of legal and business affairs for Open Mic Productions - that’s Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode’s record label.

He said some people took the challenge on for their own gains.

"We have followed the news that Warner, our partners internationally, has actually been taken to task by many people on social media saying 'you guys are being greedy, 'we are doing this thing because of social [distancing], we are all down because of COVID', and I think it's quite on point. But there've been different versions of this challenge. 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.

Companies and brands using the song to enhance their own social capital is the problem Open Mic will also be targeting, he said.

"I saw brands where you would see a drone showing a view of a company yard, then you will see their workshop, they dish out products, they make sure they give you a picture of every product they sell. The song is playing in the background, and because it is playing in the background, now I have an interest in seeing what this particular company is doing," he said. "If it's for private use and has nothing to do with commercialising the song, in other words, using the song in order to exploit the brand, in order to make a specific brand visible, there is totally nothing wrong with that."

READ: Virus-weary South Africans take on Jerusalema dance craze

Picking out the companies and brands taking advantage of the feel-good song in between people who are using it for a bit of fun isn't cut and dried, he said.

"There has been a thin line. 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. 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."

So what constitutes a brand or an advert? Presumably, those heart-warming videos of frontline healthcare workers at taking up the challenge won’t be targeted.

"Those are the critical examples that we will certainly not go after. You can see they were using it within the context of uplifting spirits during difficult times and within the confines of the call that was made by the president," he said.

So if you did it for fun or to lift the nation’s spirits, you’re good. But if you used the music to shill for business, not so much. Motsamai said Open Mic was looking at local examples of brands exploiting the song and will request payment from them too, just as Warner International has done. While he didn't have an exact number of companies they were going after, he did say there were "quite a few".

"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.

READ: Groote Schuur health workers celebrate resilience with Jerusalema dance

He also explained how royalties were due when a song was used for commercial outcomes.

"There's royalties that, as Open Mic, we pay arising from synchronisation licences. So it is upon us to ensure that we pursue this instance and make sure that some or other kind of licensing is paid so that we can pay them as well. Yes, it's income that comes to us as master owners, but it's also income we have an obligation with our artists to pay over."

It’s worth remembering that all the artists who make this music have to eat too. It’s been a very rough ride for their community as global lockdowns wiped opportunities off the board for them.

So if you took up the challenge, herded your kids into formation and posted the results online, you’re not going to get a hefty bill - or any bill - for that matter.

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