Kenya: Copyright regulator cancels royalty body's licence

In a move to clean up the collection of music royalties, government regulator the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) has declined to renew the annual licence of a collective management organisation (CMO).

Kenyan pop group Elani last year accused MCSK of defrauding them of royalties. Photo: Mpasho
Kenyan pop group Elani last year accused MCSK of defrauding them of royalties. Photo: Mpasho

The Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) has been rendered defunct after failing to produce its latest audited financial statements for the year ending June 2016, declare the amount of royalties collected and provide a list of its members.

KECOBO executive director Edward Sigei said these were mandatory documents under the Copyright Regulations, 2004 and were useful in determining the MCSK’s suitability to function as a collecting body.

“The board found that the society did not qualify for renewal since an assessment of the society’s performance for the past year was not possible. As such the application for renewal was rejected,” he said.

Since October last year, the society, which has 15 000 members, has been invited twice by the board to produce audited statements.

The board recommended the renewal of licences for the other two CMOs, the Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) and the Performance Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK), after they met the requirements.

“The licence for KAMP is subject to the raising of royalties paid to its members to above 50% from the current 20%,” Sigei said.

Speaking to ip-watch.org, MCSK CEO Merit Simiyu said personal interests were behind the denial of the licence, since the regulator was aware of a failed digital accounting system that required the society to capture information manually. This, he said, had delayed the submission of MCSK’s audited financial statements. However, Simiyu said MCSK had submitted a draft financial statement.

“We are going to court to challenge the decision,” he said. “We have reciprocal agreements in other countries and this is infringing on the rights of our members.”

But Sigei, during a follow-up meeting with artists expressing concerns about transition and asset recovery, said it was time for a new beginning. “I hope we’ll get a good replacement and my board will make that decision within the next one month,” he said.

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