Kenyan court suspends licensing of new royalties body

A storm continues to brew in the Kenyan music industry as the royalties collection regime is thrown into confusion yet again. The state-owned Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) has suffered a setback after a local court suspended its decision to deny the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) a licence to collect royalties on behalf of Kenyan artists.

Demonstrators claiming to be artists took to the streets last week in support of embattled MCSK.
Demonstrators claiming to be artists took to the streets last week in support of embattled MCSK.

Two veteran musicians challenged the 27 March decision of the board in court, prompting Justice Jesse Njaga to issue the directive.

“This matter is certified as urgent," Njaga said. "I hereby grant orders stopping the decision of KECOBO of approving the licence of Music Publishers Association of Kenya (MPAKE) and revoking the licence of MCSK pending the hearing and determination of this case.” 

Benga artist Laban Juma Toto and pioneer musician David Amunga sued KECOBO and the attorney-general in a suit in which the MCSK and MPAKE are listed as interested parties.

Last month, KECOBO declined to renew the MCSK’s annual licence and instead authorised a newcomer, MPAKE, to collect royalties on behalf of authors, composers and publishers until February 2018.  

This decision has since created confusion among artists, with some celebrating the downfall of a "corrupt MCSK" and  some raising questions of MPAKE’s legitimacy and qualifications.

Questions about the leadership of the new organisation, the registration process, fees and handover hitches go unanswered.

Artists claim to receive correspondence from both organisations, as the MCSK refuses to go down without a fight. MPAKE has reached out to its predecessor’s members, asking them to register with the new organisation, and some artists have complained that they are being made to pay twice, since they were already registered with the MCSK.

According to the board, the MCSK failed to produce its latest audited financial statements for the year ending June 2016, declare the amount of royalties collected and amounts spent in administrative costs, and provide a list of its members and amounts paid as royalties to each.  



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