Lion Finally Sleeps in Copyright Jungle


Solomon Linda, who composed the Zulu melody Mbube in 1939 – which later featured on world music charts as Wimoweh and The Lion Sleeps Tonight – can rest in peace. His descendants have settled a copyright lawsuit with the American-based music company that “owns” and licenses the song. Linda will now be recognised as the song’s composer, and royalties will accrue to his family.

Somewhat ironically, the law which the Linda family relied upon to prosecute their claim derives from a 1911 British Empire statute, promulgated when the same British Empire was actively dispossessing black South Africans of such things as 87% of South Africa. The copyright law has since been discarded in many parts of the Commonwealth, but was still in effect when Linda composed the song.

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