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Finally, Kenya Copyright Board Renews Music Copyright Society Of Kenya Licence 

HN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER

The Kenya Copyright Board has renewed the licence of the Music Copyright Society Of Kenya (MCSK) Licence after a long time tussle. 

This follows the legal war with other bodies representing artists and which wanted to deprive MCSK of its rights of representation. 

“Certificate of renewal of registration of collective management society, this is to certify the registration of MCSK for the author, composer, publisher, and arranger category class of owners of copyright with registration number KE 002 has been renewed. The renewed registration will commence from 1st day of January 2023 and expire on 31st December 2023, dated at Nairobi this 5th day of May 2023,”   read the letter by the executive director Music Copyright Society

This is after the Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) in Kenya wanted the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) Executive Director fired.

CMOs wanted Edward Sigei sacked for incompetence and abuse of office.

Kenya’s Collective Organisations (CMOs) which represent the Kenyan artists and are mandated to administer copyright on behalf of musicians said that KECOBO had outlived its usefulness and that the current Executive Director should be sacked and the Copyright Act amended.

Music  Copyright Society of Kenya CEO Dr. Ezekiel Mutua who led the team then said the CMOs wanted Forensic  Audit on KECOBO and a Lifestyle Audit on its Executive Director.

He claimed that the regulator had turned the office into a den of corruption and led to the death of the once vibrant music industry.

Dr. Mutua had accused the KECOBO boss of running the regulatory body like a personal kiosk by frustrating collection of royalties for Kenyan artists by the said CMOs. 

At the same time, the Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) Chief Executive Officer Joseph Njagi jointly with the KECOBO Executive Director were hard pressed on responding to allegations that they entered into a clandestine out-of-court settlement on behalf of MCSK, KAMP and PRISK in a lawsuit involving a local media house that saw the corporations lose over Sh67 million. 

The withdrawal of the case, which was allegedly executed without the involvement of board members of MCSK, KECOBO and PRISK led to artistes losing the royalties and prompted a petition by Kirinyaga County Women representative Hon. Jane Njeri who is a former artiste and current member of the three CMOs.

Thrown under the bus

Appearing before the National Assembly of Kenya Departmental Committee on Sports and Culture on Friday 5th May 2023, Chief Executive Officer Kenya Copyright Board Mr. Edward Sigei could not explain to the Parliamentary Committee chaired by Webuye West Member of Parliament Hon. Dan Wanyama the circumstances that led to the withdrawal of the case. 

MCSK in his submissions claimed that the regulator KECOBO had frustrated CMOs by denying them licenses and asking for kickbacks of up to Sh 5 million in order to be licensed. 

He further accused the CEO of underhand dealings and demands to be made a signatory to MCSK accounts contrary to the law, 

allegations that the KECOBO Executive Director termed untrue.

‘The essence and focus of the Kenya Kwanza government is to have a very robust creative economy for this country. This is the only way we can help our artistes. We want to tackle the issues that our artistes and the CMOs have with the regulator and create a conducive environment for the artistes as well as the CMOs. So far, we have established that the problem here is the regulator,’ noted Hon. Wanyama When asked by the Commi/ee Chairman why KECOBO issued interim licenses that lasted four months contrary to the six month period stated in the law, the regulating body boss was unable to explain himself. He was also dumbfounded when asked to present his legal officer to help him interpret the laws governing the regulatory body.

‘Do you have a legal mind as part of the board?’ charged Hon. Wanyama who also sought to know whether there actually existed a board or if it was a one man show at KECOBO. 

‘Mr Sigei has overstayed in office and should be fired or moved elsewhere in order to allow maximum collection of royalties. As MCSK, we are amazed that the regulator is frustrating collection of royalties on behalf of young talented Kenyans. We hear the KECOBO boss has ‘god fathers’ in government, for this reason, the President should pronounce himself on this because the hustlers that we are fighting for are the people that he also committed to fight for. These musicians are the real hustlers,” Dr. Mutua said.

Dr. Ezekiel Mutua claimed the CMOs have raised  the matter before but Mr. Sigei, has often ignored their calls and dodged their attempts to meet him in person.

‘We have a lot of faith in the Parliamentary Committee, finally our voices shall be heard. We are asking the President, kindly just remove this man. Give him another job. He can serve elsewhere. We want this industry to thrive,” pleaded Dr. Mutua.

The CEO said that MCSK has time and again been denied a license by KECOBO, yet the institution has met all requirements.

‘We’ve even gone to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, written some letters to them asking to audit this person, not only forensic audit but lifestyle audit because he is unfit to hold that office, ” said MCSK Board Chairperson Lazarus Muli.

In an interesting turn of events, PRISK CEO Dr. Njagi narrated to the committee on how CMOs funds were withdrawn unprocedurally and shared among officials without approval of the boards involved. The monies, according to Dr. Njagi were handed to officials in cash to cater for sitting allowances, lobbying and bribes.

In one instance, as narrated by Njagi, over Sh2million was withdrawn from three cheques and distributed among officials. Some of the officials named in the saga, such as former PRISK Chairman Ephantus Kamau denied receiving the said funds from Mr. Njagi.

‘From what we are hearing in the submissions, a lot of embezzlement has been going on at the expense of hard working artistes, this Committee will do its work to clean up the music industry. I want to assure you that those found culpable of any wrongdoing will be brought to book,” stated the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee Hon. Wanyama.

Way Forward…

At the end of the session, the Committee Chairman directed that KECOBO licenses the CMOs fully to allow them collect royalties. Further, Hon. Wanyama directed the regulator to to refund to MCSK and KAMP funds that the CMOs had paid for licences that were never issued. 

“ We have issued instructions to the regulator Mr. Sigei to make sure that by next week, the CMOs that have not received their licences should have received their licenses and most importantly the regulator should ensure the CMOs are supported to enforce royalty collections particularly from media houses, matatus as well as hotels and clubs that use musicians content to make money yet the musicians themselves are not doing as much,’ said Hon. Wanyama.

He added that the Kenya Kwanza government is focused on seeing through the Bottom up agenda on ‘pesa mfukoni’. 

Mr. Sigei who was quiet most of the session also refused to address journalists over the matter at the end of the sitting saying all the allegations raised against him are untrue and hurriedly left the venue

The Committee is scheduled to look into the matter extensively before presenting their findings to the House for debate.

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