Cole Becker at SXSW
According to a SXSW contract, the event has the right to call immigration services on acts. Pictured: Cole Becker on March 14, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Getty Images

The organizers of the South by Southwest festival (SXSW), one of the biggest tech, culture and music festivals in the world that starts Friday in Austin, Tex., reassured participants and performers through a statement released Tuesday that they are committed to the removal of the “deportation clause” from its agreements starting in 2018.

“We will remove the option of notifying immigration authorities in situations where a foreign artist might ‘adversely affect the viability of Artist’s official showcase,’” read the statement from SXSW.

The SXSW was marred in controversy this past week over a “deportation clause” in the contract of performers of the event, whose legal language was interpreted on the internet and social media to be supporting the deportation of foreign artists visiting the United States to perform at its event. In particular, organizers told artists that they were contractually forbidden from playing gigs at any other venue for the duration of the festival. Failing to comply and doing so without work Visas would prompt the organizers to notify U.S. Border officials.

The issue was raised last week on Twitter by Told Slant, a Brooklyn-based indie band who threatened to pull out of the event due to the clause.

Several other artists supported Told Slant and soon an online petition was launched by another indie artist, Evan Greer. The online uproar reached a crescendo after musicians such as rapper El-P, of Run the Jewels, also threatened to boycott the event, eliciting a reaction from South by Southwest’s CEO Roland Swenson.

“We decided to make the change in our artist invitation letter and performance agreement when it became clear to us that the language related to immigration as written was creating problems that were not intended,” Swenson said in an email according to the NYT.

Musicians from the event who had protested the legal language of their contracts, signed an open letter hailing the announcement by the festival organizers.

“After some negotiating, the festival finally agreed to our demands…The effort shows that artists can and must take collective action to fight unjust policies within the cultural sphere. At this critical time we need to bring the struggle to every institution, and with this victory we’ve shown how it can be done,” Told Slant and other artists wrote in a statement that was published on Huffington Post.

Swenson also appropriated some blame around the controversy on President Trump.

“In light of the current political climate, this type of language seemed a lot scarier than when it was originally drafted a number of years ago. We plan to look at it through the eyes of a person who is living in the world of Donald Trump, which was not the case when we sent this out back in September,” he said.

The event is expected to hold several politically charged events such as “Immigration Reform in a Trump Era Meet Up”; “Trump Means Millennials Must Dive Into Politics”;“Documenting Politics in the Trump Years” among others. One such special event 'ContraBanned: #MusicUnites,' will feature seven artists from five of the seven countries that are part of Trump's travel ban.

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