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Kenyan musicians sue copyright bodies over royalties

Friday July 31 2015

A man carrying a placard during a past protest

A man carrying a placard during a past protest against the Music Copyright Society of Kenya. Musicians have sues MCSK over royalties. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

ABIUD OCHIENG
By ABIUD OCHIENG
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A dispute has emerged in the interpretation of a section of the Copyright Act dealing with collection of music royalties.

Musicians Elijah Wainaina Mira, Francis Jumba and Carolyne Wanjiru Ndiba have filed a case alongside two other companies seeking an interpretation of Section 30A of the Copyright Act.

The two companies, Xpedia Management Ltd and Liberty Afrika Technologies Ltd, are engaged in promoting and distribution of various musical and artistic works through digital platforms.

They have sued the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP), Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRSK) and Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK).

The petitioners claim that section 30A of the Copyright Act states that the defendants, who are Collective Management Organisations (CMOs), are the only persons who can collect payment on behalf of owners of copyrights of performing and producing rights.

“The provision to that extent takes away rights of the petitioner and other copyright holders to collect payments from users of their works,” explained lawyer Kiingati Ndirangu representing the petitioners.

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CONFUSION

The CMOs collect and retain remuneration on behalf of copyright holders but do not remit cash of non-members.

The lawyer said a copyright holder, who is not a member of any of the CMOs risks losing revenue collected on their behalf.

He further said Section 30A (1) creates confusion on who will collect and distribute revenue collected by the CMOs that is supposed to be shared equally between a producer and performer.

KAMP, PRISK and MCSK have relied on Section 30A to demand and collect royalties from users when the provision only allows them to collect a single equitable remedy.

He added that the copyrights board has also failed to give any directions with regard to collection of the remuneration and distribution of the payments.

“The result of lack of a fair and reasonable administrative action has resulted in confusion, overpayments by users and lack of clear mode of sharing and distribution,” explained lawyer Ndirangu.

The case will be heard Friday.