Judge Orders MCSK To Cease Collecting Royalties For Kenyan Musicians

from the contempt-of-everyone dept

The saga of the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) over the past couple of years has certainly been interesting to watch. In the summer of 2015, the Kenyan government responded to some fairly damning reports about just how little money MCSK was paying artists as part of its copyright collection scheme with a tongue-lashing. It also demanded that MCSK open up detailed books on its business and itemize how much it was collecting, paying artists, and paying itself in administrative fees. When the group responded with reports that might as well have been written in crayon for all the professionalism they showed, the government elected to strip MCSK of its collection license as a Collective Management Organization (CMO), instead setting up new collection groups that it for some reason thought would be less corrupt. I’m sure the Kenyan government thought that would be the end of MCSK.

But nooooooope. Up until very recently, MCSK was advertising itself as the only CMO on the market, despite it not having a license to operate at all. It also was continuing to harass local businesses for royalties it was not authorized to collect. So, the court system in Kenya is now taking its turn at saying, “No, seriously, we’re the government and you have to stop doing this.”

The Music Copyright Society has been temporarily stopped from collecting royalties. The order was given by High Court judge Ruth Sitati. Her order arose out of a case filed following complaints from the business community that the MCSK was demanding royalties despite lacking a licence to operate as a Collective Management Organisation. Sitati also barred the MCSK or its agents from publishing information insinuating it is duly licensed as a CMO, pending hearing and determination of the case.

Why the court thinks MCSK will listen to it any more than the other branches of government remains unaddressed, but it likely has to do with the court having higher standing and respect than the government’s Copyright Board. The court likewise has asked MCSK to open its books, though its refusal to do so earlier would indicate some sort of fear in doing this publicly. Seeing those books disclosed during the discovery process would provide some interesting details in just how money tends to flow through these collection societies.

What should be clear, regardless, is that these types of organizations don’t care to operate in the open light. One wonders just how musicians can think their interests are being served by them at all at this point.

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Companies: mcsk

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Comments on “Judge Orders MCSK To Cease Collecting Royalties For Kenyan Musicians”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Behind bars, but for copyright law

Funny, I’m pretty sure ‘pay up or something bad will happen to you’ if said with no legal justification is usually considered extortion, and with their license revoked their actions would seem to fall squarely into that category, and doing so while claiming to have that legal justification when you don’t would be considered fraud.

But I suppose since they used to be official, and they were doing it in the name of The Holy Copyright, Upon Which All Creativity Rests then that’s okay.

If the courts wants to stop them it needs to stop asking and move on to demanding, ready and willing to hit them with penalties when they refuse or try to play the shell-game again. Anything less and they might as well be asking ‘Pretty please could you stop committing fraud?’

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Behind bars, but for copyright law

The Kenyan government is not particularly strong, and is riddled with corruption at basically every level. The lack of effective enforcement is unlikely to be due to any particular allegiance to Copyright, and more to the fact that it just doesn’t have much of an ability to do things in general, and this is probably fairly low on the non-corrupt people’s radar.

Anonymous Coward says:

As predicted: Exposed and handled! Key point you sneer at is court set up NEW collection agencies! A few greedy persons has not affected the core principle of copyright!

My point made in the first link with comment (censored on this allegedly open site) titled: “AND been exposed! Presumably handled.”, which pirates jumped on without understanding and then dissolved themselves into irrelevancy, was that:

A) the MCSK was exposed,

B) the legal sytem was taking it apart, unlike as the myth here goes that collection agencies are legalized theft with no recourse at law,

C) it’s in Kenya, doesn’t affect me or Timmy or likely any reader at all,

D) it’s wacky to crow over and claim some vague credit for a “win” here, because

E) this is NOT an anomaly, just usual legal process, often gets it right.

What’s surprising is that you pirates, who take content without paying and have cheered Kim Dotcom of Megaupload who gained millions by indirect collection, appear upset with THIS scheme to monetize intellectual property. — YOU TOO are illegally collecting value from someone else’s work! Yes, even if you just WATCH, you’ve received VALUE without paying.

Okay, censor away again! — Even that seems to be lessened now that scrutiny is on Techdirt, it’d look bad in court: you’ll support Facebook showing murders, defame Ayyadurai, and then CENSOR my little bits of text!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: As predicted: Exposed and handled! Key point you sneer at is court set up NEW collection agencies! A few greedy persons has not affected the core principle of copyright!

Apparently despite all the people that out_of_the_blue and Michael Slonecker claim respect and want strict copyright, they can’t get anyone but sleazeballs and scammers to actually work at enforcing copyright.

Funny, that. It’s almost as though this glut of people who respect and want strict copyright don’t actually exist, or are all sleazeballs and scammers. Take your pick.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: As predicted: Exposed and handled! Key point you sneer at is court set up NEW collection agencies! A few greedy persons has not affected the core principle of copyright!

A) and the article is reporting on it

B) thankfully this is starting to happen more often as opposed as what’s been the norm for the larger part of collection societies history

C) It interests me regardless of where it is. We managed to get to point A and B of your list because there is broad reporting regardless of where it occurred.

D and E) Historically it is an anomaly to get anything punished when it’s the money collecting part of the copyright system abusing it.

About pirates) That’s your opinion and we don’t care about it because it’s largely devoid of facts and sources. I’d counter your claims here but it has been done several times for a long, loooong time frame.

About the censoring) Hiding your bullshit because people voted it down but allowing whoever wants to see the crap you write if they click it is far from censoring. I for one clicked your comment to check what you said just to see if I could toy with you. Mission accomplished.

Daydream says:

I object!

Mr. Geigner, I object to your closing remarks that imply that this sort of behavior is characteristic of all royalty collection societies!
The MCSK here is clearly a bad actor; real collection societies don’t misrepresent the facts, or try to extort small companies, and they pay artists their royalties in a timely and complete manner, and they keep their finances in order, and…

Oh, who the hell do I think I’m kidding?

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: I object!

Really? ECAD from Brazil demanding royalties from goddamn private events and being fined for millions when caught in corruption schemes not to pay artists. JASRAC from Japan demanding royalties from goddamn MUSIC SCHOOLS. Indian collection societies busted for the same issue in this article. PPL in the UK charging fees from people who never played any songs in their businesses. ASCAP cutting payments for artists while getting record amounts of royalties. Levies being imposed or tried at blank media and other equipment because everyone must be a pirate and goddamned collection societies push for it.

No, seriously. Read more, there’s plenty with plenty of sources: https://www.techdirt.com/blog/?tag=collection+societies

Wolfie0827 (profile) says:

Corrective action

I think the way to handle this would be to put the execs of the “collection agency” in a large room with their hands behind tied behind their backs.

The Artists they represent are then given small paring knives and told “to express their dissatisfaction with the execs in an artistic and creative means on the bodies of the execs.”

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