In the aftermath of apartheid, South Africa embarked on an ambitious revision of its intellectual property system. This paper explores the role of copyright in this process and its intersection with the South African music industry, the largest on the African continent. The South African government portrays the reform effort as aligning copyright with the post-apartheid agenda of redistributive justice and as a vital component of the country’s shift toward a post-industrial knowledge economy. But the persistence of racial inequality, obsolete models of social order and creative work, and Euro-modernist justifications of copyright threaten to undermine this project if not cause it to fail altogether. Based on many years of ethnographic fieldwork in sites as varied as royalty collection societies, parliamentary committees, and anti-piracy police operations, this paper critically examines these structural and conceptual continuities.
About the Speaker
Veit Erlmann is the Endowed Chair of Music History and Professor of Anthropology and Ethnomusicology at the University of Texas at Austin. He has published widely on South African music and culture. His monograph Lion’s Share: Remaking South African Copyright will be published by Duke University Press in the fall of 2021.