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?

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Comments on “Kenyan Music Licensing Collections In Full Chaos As Unlicensed MCSK Society Issues Rival C&D For Royalty Collections”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Huh? Chaos, artists NOT being paid, is what you pirates want!

At the moment, it’s excellent illustration of what Techdirt has long advocated: a "free market" in which artists can put out products for everyone else to monetize, while the artists HOPE to somehow gain money. They could sell T-shirts. — WHY aren’t they selling T-shirts? Or putting works on Youtube and rolling in money? HMM?

Of course, your actual purpose, the only one Techdirt ever has, is to attack copyright in the well-defined legal system of "the West" with the anomaly of what’s happening in Kenya.

Good dull way to end the week, Timmy. — SIX hours after last dull re-written piece. Why does that take you so long? I could re-write ten pieces with a bit of snark in two hours! — Not even up to re-writing of late.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What you want, blue, is for corporations to hold onto the money that was to be given to artists, and ask the government to fine the public for the actions of corporations. Guess which scenario of the two people will find more palatable.

And if you think the "West" has it any better, one need only look at the controversies of similar organizations (SABAM, PROMUSICAE) to see the true nature of collection organizations.

out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Huh? Chaos, artists NOT being paid, is what you pirates want!

There are other ways of making money from creative efforts than collecting money on the sale of copies or royalties. The most valuable thing a creator has is their ability to create new works, and that can be leveraged into patronage or sponsorship. That is how most of those YouTube creators who have gone full time make a living.

Also, for musicians, the most reliable way of making a living is the same as it has always been, get up on stage and play to an audience.

These are hard work, as in the continuous production of new content, or in touring and performing in front of an audience. Also like other jobs, the money only comes in so long as you keep on working.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Huh? Chaos, artists NOT being paid, is what you pirates want!

I do love the fact that your response to an article essentially about the music industry not paying artists is to accuse others of not doing that. You lie your ass off every time you slander people here, but it takes a special kind of stupid to defend the labels by attacking others for doing exactly what they are doing.

“WHY aren’t they selling T-shirts? “

They do. They also tour, sell other merchandise, and work for a living like the rest of the world has to. The free ride that a tiny percentage of artists used to get from selling plastic discs is over.

“Or putting works on Youtube and rolling in money?”

They do. To the point where major labels recently shut their own site down because they made so much more money on YouTube.

“Why does that take you so long? I could re-write ten pieces with a bit of snark in two hours! “

You’d also be posting a random grouping of lies, as is your style.

But, you’re so obsessed that you’re now whining about how long it takes between articles on a site that has no schedule. Are you that bored, or are you just so desperate?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You’d also be posting a random grouping of lies, as is your style.

Personally I recall the time when Whatever/MyNameHere/Just Sayin’/horse with no name boasted that he could duplicate Techdirt’s T-shirts in manufacture and sell them at drastically reduced prices, just to prove an anti-Techdirt point and deprive them of funding against Shiva.

He never actually went about doing it, of course. Because like out_of_the_blue and other copyright fanatic trolls, they’re all bark and no bite – and a heaping dose of raging asshole.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Huh? Chaos, artists NOT being paid, is what you pirates want!

It’s rather telling that you are confronted with clear factual evidence that the music industry is ripping off artists and yet you go on an incoherent, facts free rant of how people rip off artists, TD is bad and you could write oh-so-awesome stuff.

At the very least it is good comedy and you manage to rack in some good replies every now and then.

Agammamon says:

“And this chaotic nonsense is good for musicians and creating more music how, exactly?”

The same way its been in the US – move away from pre-recorded work as your primary moneymaker (that now comes from live performances) and use it as a marketing tool. As a marketing tool, if it makes you some money, great, but its primary purpose is to get you known and get people to come see you perform.

I mean, frankly, its not like most of these guys were seeing most of the money owed to them from royalties anyway. At least this way you knock out the dependency on corrupt CMO’s altogether.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

move away from pre-recorded work as your primary moneymaker (that now comes from live performances)

Pre-recorded works have never been a continuous source of income for musicians, while live performance has always been the basis of a long musical career. With pre-recorded works there is always the demand for new songs, and after an initial burst of songs, the output from most song writers slows down dramatically. With live performance, you do not need new works, just the ability to keep the audience engaged.

Agammamon says:

Re: Re: Re:

Exactly. The only people who consistently make money off of recorded music are the recording companies and the royalty collecting companies.

“And this chaotic nonsense is good for musicians and creating more music how, exactly?”

As I point out to the author, the previous ‘ordered’ system wasn’t helping musicians create more music, the removal of them (or the chaos that is neutralizing them) isn’t going to harm them either. Either way, they weren’t/aren’t getting paid royalties. So, either they’re not dependent upon royalties already or they soon won’t be.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Pre-recorded works have never been a continuous source of income for musicians”

For most musicians, anyway. There is a tiny percentage who did manage to make a living that way, and then the industry sold everyone on the lie that this is how it works for all musicians. In reality, of course, their contracts meant that most bands never recoup their initial advance through record sales, but they don’t like to be honest about that.

Anonymous Coward says:

"fighting corruption"

In many 3rd World countries, “fighting corruption” is a common name for the process of a new leader coming to power and tearing down all the existing government agencies filled with nepotism and corruption, then building up equally corrupt agencies run by the new leader’s friends and family.

On top of that, tribal loyalties are another factor throughout Africa, and unlike the western world, governments in that continent often just barely function.

trollificus (profile) says:

Re: "fighting corruption"

Well, if you consider their actual “function” as being enriching the family and co-tribal members of the leader, some of them work quite efficiently.

Leaving a coterie of Western-educated technocrats sputtering and serving as an entry point for 1st world aid and NGOs. It’s a tragedy that all that post-colonial revolutionary rhetoric has resulted in nothing better, in almost every case.

This is not entirely unique to Africa though. Witness the fact that, despite the “savage economic warfare waged by the CIA” against the Venezuelan economy, the Chavez and Maduro families have managed to become very wealthy.

David says:

Bad conclusion

And this chaotic nonsense is good for musicians and creating more music how, exactly?

Uh, the preexisting copyright society has been simply stealing from the artists without compensation. That’s not how the system is supposed to work. It has apparently doing that in large proportions and systematically for decades: that points to a complete lack of working oversight, either because of naive structures or pervasively corrupt state officials.

So one first needs to make sure that the system works as designed and have safeguards for that in place, and then it makes sense to ask whether it benefits the creation of art.

Otherwise it’s like asking "how is this going to clean my carpet" while shoving a broken vacuum across it.

Anonymous Coward says:

How do I get in on this racket?

First you let someone else do the work. They also get to do all the finance and management too. For all cost they pay and if cost exceeded revenue the pay.

After all this then you setback and collect a 100% tax on all their revenue before they can deduct their cost.

What a racket. It makes the old mob look tame by comparison.

David says:

Re: Re:

The mob pitched for sustainable operations. Taking 100%, in contrast, is going for broke: you operate until the bust and disappear the evening before because you paid well for advance information.

Letting yourself be shut down by the government, still handing out bills and cease&desist orders to the governmental replacement: that’s not really the playbook anymore. That’s chutzpah.

What’s next? They declare the government dissolved and call for a new election?

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