Kenyan Music Licensing Collections In Full Chaos As Unlicensed MCSK Society Issues Rival C&D For Royalty Collections
from the it's-all-for-the-artists dept
We’ve written a couple of times about the full turmoil that is music licensing collections in Kenya. The Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) has operated there for some time, but recently had its license stripped by the government and courts due to what appears to be some very shady financial practices that mostly amount to — you guessed it — not properly paying artists for royalties collected. The government then went about setting up new Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) with the aim of these new CMOs being less corrupt than MCSK. The Music Publishers Association of Kenya (MPAKE) is one such alternative CMO.
As we pointed out in previous posts, the MCSK has been remarkably non-compliant with the Kenyan government at pretty much every level, from refusing to open its books as requested, to not complying with requests to cease collecting royalties. That not only continues at present, but the MCSK has actually gone so far as to issue a cease and desist to MPAKE for royalty collections, despite the Kenyan government notifying the public that MCSK was not a licensed collector.
In a letter delivered yesterday, the MCSK through its chairperson Lazarus Muoki Muli said MPAKE had no legal basis to act as a collective management organisation (CMO), as its registration and licensing was unconstitutional and violated the provisions of Section 5 of the Fair Administrative Actions Act and Article 47(1) of the Constitution of Kenya.
This development comes after the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) placed an advert in various local newspapers on 19 July highlighting MPAKE, the Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) and the Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) as the only bodies licensed to collect royalties.
KECOBO’s move is in conflict with a Kakamega high court judgment delivered on 13 July by justices Ruth Sitati, David Majanja and Thripsisa Cherere, who nullified MPAKE’s licence to collect and distribute royalties on behalf of copyright holders. They declared that KECOBO’s process of issuing MPAKE with licence No CS 005 on 27 March 2017 was null and void.
So what’s going on here? Well, the MCSK is fighting in court for its continued right to collect royalties, while the Kenyan government, under its attorney general, is busy telling the public that this is all settled law and that MCSK is out of the CMO business. Meanwhile, due to the court fight, the courts have said the government’s licensing of MPAKE in 2017 was unconstitutional, while KECOBO is saying that’s true for the 2017 license, but not the license put in place in 2018. Meanwhile, MCSK remains unlicensed by the government, even as it battles for its life in the court system.
And if all of this sounds like a huge clusterfuck that can only result in confusion and anger for everyone, you’re not the only one.
Afro-fusion musician Sam Ondieki said the court’s ruling had triggered a heated debate among musicians, many of whom were only interested in whether royalties would be paid out to them.
“We have waited for an entire year for this verdict,” Ondieki said. “So we are not so much keen in knowing who will be the next CMO. As musicians we want to be paid our royalties before we transfer rights to someone else. We do not know who to believe among the two [MCSK and MPAKE], although the court’s directive is clear.
“Personally, I can openly say that it is impossible for me to trust the MCSK. I have been a member for about 10 years and I am yet to receive a penny, yet my songs have been receiving airplay.”
In other words, pretty much everyone in this saga sucks out loud. The MCSK appears to be plainly corrupt, the government appears to be promoting other collection societies in a way that circumvents copyright law, and musical artists and the public are all left scratching their collective heads wondering what exactly they’re supposed to do.
And this chaotic nonsense is good for musicians and creating more music how, exactly?