Showdown looms as government plots to clip artistes' societies

Kenya Copyright Board Chairperson Joshua Kutuny. [Courtesy: X]

The Kenya Copyright Board has hinted at the government’s intentions to take charge of payment of royalties for artistes.

This will be effected through a government-led Collective Management Organisation (CMO) and channelling all royalties paid through the e-Citizen portal.

In an announcement that could have far-reaching repercussions on how artistes manage their affairs, Kecobo, the government board mandated to enforce copyright and related rights, has said it has been tasked to consider repealing and replacing the Copyright Act.

This could affect how licensing of CMOs is done. It is a move the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK), and the Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) – the three licensed CMOs – have reacted angrily to.

This week during a media briefing, Kecobo released a statement on the performance of the three licensed CMOs, one that slammed MCSK on its royalties’ collection and distribution transparency while citing operational loopholes at PRISK and KAMP.

Kecobo chairman Joshua Kutuny said out of Sh249 million collected jointly by the three CMOs last year, there were disparities in the amounts and time royalties distributed to rights owners and shortfalls in the amounts that went to artistes as expected.

Of the Sh249 million, at least Sh173 million should have been distributed to the artistes. The report is a catalyst of the foreseeable changes the government is proposing in its CMOs regulatory framework.   

“MCSK declared receipts of Sh109 million, which represented a shortfall of Sh26 million while KAMP and PRISK accounted for Sh61 million and Sh52.7 million respectively. All the societies did not set aside royalties from collections in quarter two, three, and four despite the improved business environment,” said Kutuny.

An analysis by Kecobo had it that if the revenue had been distributed as per regulations, each artiste could have earned at least six times the amount they were paid in 2023.

“In terms of revenue sources, the income from broadcasting stations, PSV and new media revenue is grossly poor. The CMOs have made various proposals to improve this performance which Kecobo shall be acting on in due course. The Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) presented its information in a letter format and a list of members who received royalties in 2023. On review, the board of directors found information presented was scanty and at variance with details on joint collection.

“The details and amounts received for mechanicals in 2023 including monies received from foreign entities like PRS London, CAPPASSO and Google Ireland totalling Sh30 million were also not accounted for,” said Kutuny.

MCSK CEO Ezekiel Mutua poured cold water on the Kecobo report warning that MCSK is not a public entity, nor is it funded by the government. “Government licences many private companies including broadcasters and banks. Does that give it the power to meddle with the internal operations of these companies? What is the obsession with the music industry?” Mutua posed.

MCSK CEO Dr Ezekiel Mutua.

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