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.