Drum photographers in dispute over Bailey legacy

The Department of Arts and Culture has intervened in a long-running copyright dispute over articles and photographs produced by former Drum magazine journalists. According to Jacqui Masiza, archivist at the Bailey African Historical Archives (BAHA), ex-Drum photographer Jurgen Schadeberg has requested that the department mediate talks between former journalists and the family of Jim Bailey over royalty payments and the rights to use Drum material.

An article that appeared in the Mail & Guardian in 1997 states that the ‘conflict over copyright first surfaced in 1995 when Schadeberg and a former colleague, photographer Peter Magubane, attempted to win back the rights to own and use their pictures.” The piece maintains that Schadeberg won his legal battle with former Drum publisher Jim Bailey in August 1997, while Magubane reached a separate agreement.

But today, against the backdrop of interviews the Department of Arts and Culture is conducting with the journalists and photographers concerned, Magubane is disputing all claims made by Schadeberg.

‘I am not going to be dragged into this,” Magubane told eMedia. ‘Drum magazine and the [BAHA] archives have never refused anyone pictures. [Minister] Pallo Jordan’s people have been speaking to me and I gave them the same story.”

Magubane’s view is that the legacy of the late Jim Bailey is being ‘unfairly tainted” by the protracted copyright battle. ‘I will say that until I go to my grave,” he vows. Magubane further asserts that he personally spent R20,000 in the legal spat between Bailey and Schadeberg. ‘I spoke for Jim Bailey in the case. I still speak for what Jim Bailey stood for—he trained the best photographers and journalists South Africa ever had.”

Both Magubane and Prospero Bailey, son of the late Jim Bailey, allege that the 1997 Mail & Guardian piece was incorrect. ‘Schadeberg in fact won a defamation case against my father,” says Bailey. ‘The copyright case was thrown out before judgement was reached.”

Regarding the issue of royalty payments off photographs Magubane produced during his time at Drum, the photographer says he ‘has no problem”. Nevertheless, he does argue that copyright laws in South Africa are severely outdated. ‘Nothing has changed from Drum’ s days in the ‘50s up until 2005. Any work still belongs to the publisher.”

A related issue surrounds BAHA’s long-term financial sustainability and the attempt to preserve the work of journalistic and photographic legends, including (aside from Magubane and Schadeberg) Henry Nxumalo, Can Themba, Todd Matshikiza, Bob Gosani and Alf Khumalo.

To date the archives have been financed by the Bailey family, but efforts are currently underway to convert ownership into the guardianship of a trust. ‘We need the archives to be digitised; for that we need benefactors,” says Masiza.

It is intended that the trust will grant former Drum photographers and journalists a percentage of the sale of their original work. ‘The moral issue is that you have a small group of journalists that are owed acknowledgement by this country,” says Bailey. ‘Nobody will get rich, but there is the potential for these journalists or their families to get a bit of money out of what we have planned.”

A meeting of the journalists and photographers is scheduled for early September, where the arrangements for the trust will be discussed.

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