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Entertainment circles abuzz with industry players, stakeholders

Earlier in the week, entertainment circles were abuzz with industry players and stakeholders attending a public participation forum on licensing of collective societies for 2019, demanding reinstatement old copyright body. Chebet Korir and Sandra Wekesa delve into the heart of the matter

A few days ago, local entertainment circles put the spotlight on Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo), insisting that with more than 13,000 members across the country, fallen Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) is the only Collective Management Organisation (CMO) with the capacity to effectively look after their interests.

They demanded Kecobo reinstate MCSK as the sole body collecting artiste royalties, insisting only they had the capacity to effectively look after their interest. This bizarre turn of events comes after a number of local musicians such as celebrated trio Elani and gospel artiste Pitson, pointed fingers at MCSK, after they fleeced them after years of waiting for royalties.

 Kecobo, the regulator, had in the year 2016 declined to renew MCSK’s licence citing failure to submit a list of members and audited financial statement, something the collective denied. Instead, a new entity dubbed, Music Publishers Association of Kenya Ltd (Mpake) was given the green light by Kecobo to collect royalties on behalf of the artistes.

Big Ted and Edward Sigei.

However, a court judgment mid this year, Justices RN Sitati, DS Majanja and TW Cherere declared the licence to Mpake null and void leaving the industry in a state of confusion. Industry players have now turned the heat on Kecobo’s executive director, Edward Sigei insisting he imposed Mpake on them and claimed that the body has never remitted any royalties to them since it got the licence.

“As much as we shall consider your pleas to reinstate your favourite CMO, they must conform to provided rules and regulations and meet the recommended thresholds,” Sigei said.

Spice reached out to Mpake’s operations manager, Samuel Chesky, who intimated they received their licence last year adding, “We started collecting music royalties from November — they had an ongoing case in some counties. We had to make sure to collect all royalties so as to be able to have artistes paid well. We have been keen to have over 70 per cent shared among the artistes fairly.”

He we on to add, “I strongly believe that most artistes have been lured into thinking that there is a lot of money in the music industry’s hence their recent complaints.”

The sentiments from Kecobo boss seems to have fallen on deaf ears as many seemed even more agitated.  Take recording artiste and producer, Saitoti, who added; “We will not sit back and let Kecobo make uninformed decisions while we suffer the consequences of their decisions. Yes, there may have been challenges at MCSK, but those would have been solved and individuals found culpable dealt with. It is unfair to punish 13,000 artistes for one person’s mistakes.”

WHAT’S THE WAY FORWARD?

 In MCSK’s defence, Nairobi Regional Manager Peter Iyenze, in his presentation before the board and the stakeholders, lamented that the organisation had not been given a fair hearing by Kecobo. He added that with over 13, 900 members, MCSK had established the right systems to sufficiently collect and distribute royalties on behalf of artistes.

“Having been in existence for over 30 years and with a proven countrywide reach, we have over the years demonstrated due diligence and are committed to serving our members. It is our plea that the Kenya Copyright Board finds MCSK fit to continue as the Kenyan artistes’ CMO,” said Iyenze.

Music Commission boss Prof Donald Otoyo who also sits in the Kecobo board was quick to urge the CMOs to put their house in order so that the Kenya Copyright Board is not used as a punching bag in the future.

“We have been in this industry for a long time, we know what happens within these CMOs. We know which people are ‘eating’ money meant for artistes. We want to urge you to put your houses in order so that as a board, we can issue licences to organisations that have the artistes, welfare at heart,” said Prof Otoyo.

The vetting process is still ongoing and public participation closes today before the board reviews all applications and presentations. The board is scheduled to sit on September 20, 2018 to finalise the vetting process that will be followed by the awarding of licences to CMOs that meet the requirements of the regulator.

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