April 30th 2017

Entertainment / Music

Music Copyright Society gets court reprieve, but musicians still cry

Last year April 16 MCSK led artists on peaceful demonstrations demanding better remuneration from the companies. Musicians claim that Safaricom, which runs the popular Skiza tunes, has paid them their money but MCSK is withholding it.

By Charity Wainainacwainaina@kenyafreepress.comSunday, 26 Feb 2017 13:41 EAT

Popular gospel singer Eunice Njeri, who has also complained about the remuneration by Skiza tunes.

The Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) has asked public users of copyrighted musical materials to obtain licence from it in compliance with The Copyright Act 2001 and ignore a recent notice to the public by the Kenya Copyright Board that the society was no longer authorized to levy charges on behalf of its members.

In a press advertisement, the Society’s chief executive officer Merit Simiyu Wambati said they had obtained a court order staying the Board’s decision to decline renewal of the society’s license until a case the society lodged at the High Court is heard and determined. The Board declined to renew the license for MCSK because they failed to submit a list of members and amount received in royalties.

MCSK also failed to produce its latest audited financial statement for ending June 2016. “In the absence of audited financial statement and a list of members who were paid royalties in the last one year, 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,” explained the Board’s executive director Edward Sigei.

“MCSK failed to produce their audited accounts even after being invited two times since October last year to do so by the Legal and Technical Affairs Committee of the Board,” added Mr Sigei. The Society has however got an order staying that decision, meaning it can continue to play its agency role despite the Board's questions. The court will now hear its objections to the Board's decision to decline its licence.

Irrespective of the statement of accounts, the fact is that many musicians have accused the society of not being transparent with them. The musicians allege that the society takes advantage of them, especially the upcoming musicians because they are not familiar with what goes around in the industry and they are desperate for the money and hence accept whatever royalties they receive from the society since they have no indepedent way of knowing the value of their songs.

MCSK is registered by the Board as the agent to protect the right of the musicians and make sure the songs are not pirated, and it has the sole responsibility of enforcing copyright laws in the music industry, in concert with the Board and the police. However, with mobile telephone penetration, many avenues have emerged through which musicians are ripped off, notably by the ringtones.

One example is gospel musician Peace Mulu who was involved in an accident in 2015 and almost lost her legs. Peace was admitted in KNH and she had bill of almost Sh1 million. Despite being in the music industry for so long, she was not able to pay the bill. She received a visit from a man who offered to pay her Sh150,000 per song (which, such as Ombea Adui Yako, were trending on airwaves) but because she was desperate to get money, she agreed. Signing the contract gave away the rights of her song’s ownership. If I may ask, where was the MCSK?

Last year April 16 MCSK led artists on peaceful demonstrations demanding better remuneration from the companies. Musicians claim that Safaricom, which runs the popular Skiza tunes, has paid them their money but MCSK is withholding it. Somebody should stand up for the rights of Kenyans musicians.

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