Uncertain Future for Reprographic Rights in Kenya as KOPIKEN Collecting Society Registration Not Renewed

KOPIKEN Launch Collective Management Reproduction Rights Society of Kenya

In a public notice by Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) published on February 4th 2016, we are informed that KECOBO at its Board Meeting of January 28th 2016 considered the application for renewal of registration as a collecting society made by the Reproduction Rights Society of Kenya (Kopiken). After consideration of Kopiken’s application, KECOBO decided not to renew Kopiken’s registration. This means that as of January 1st 2016, there is no registered collecting society for reprographic rights in Kenya. In this regard, KECOBO in its public notice states as follows: “KECOBO will be consulting stakeholders of KOPIKEN to determine its future sometimes (sic) in March 2016.”

The idea of forming a Reprographic Rights Organisation (RRO) in Kenya was championed in the early 1990s to protect and promote authors and publishers of literary works. The name “Kopiken” was adopted for the RRO that was intended to fight infringement and piracy, and to ensure authors and publishers secure maximum benefits from their printed works. Kopiken was first registered in 1994 as a Society under the Societies Act. Between 1997 and 1998, Kopiken was inactive and Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) took over the organization in a caretaker capacity. KPA started the process of reviving Kopiken in 2004. In December 2005, Kopiken was registered as the Reproduction Rights Society of Kenya and incorporated as a Company Limited by Guarantee. In 2006, Kopiken began setting up its operations and made its first collection in 2007. Kopiken’s licenses cover all types of published material.

Currently, Kopiken has a total of 7 members. It is important to note that, unlike the other collecting societies, Kopiken’s members are associations and not individual rights holders. Its membership includes the author’s collecting society Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) along with long-time partner, KPA. Other Kopiken members are: Kenya Oral Literature Association (KOLA), Kenya Non-Fiction Authors Association (KENFAA), Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), Kenya Association of Photographers, Illustrators and Designers (KAPIDE)

In a previous post here, readers will recall that unlike the more aggressive music collecting societies (MCSK, KAMP & PRiSK), Kopiken has struggled to promote and protect reprographic rights in Kenya. In particular, Kopiken has been largely unsuccessful in getting major users of published materials such as universities, colleges and other training institutions to take out Kopiken licenses since it first started its license fees collections in 2007. From data collected by IFRRO in 2013/2014, Kopiken’s total collections stood at 13,659.42 Euros (Kshs 1,478,250.00) out of which it distributed a total of 6,540.13 Euros (KES 707,786.00) which means that Kopiken’s cost-royalty ratio is at 52:48. To put this in context, Kopiken’s total collections could easily be equated to MCSK’s collection in a single day!

For a clearer perspective of Kopiken’s dismal performance, consider the top 3 African RROs in terms of total collections and total distributions. In third place, Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) collected a total of 157,964.81 Euros and distributed a total of 110,575.36 Euros. So, in addition to performing twelve times better than Kopiken, COSOMA’s cost-royalty ratio appears to be at the internationally accepted ratio of 30:70. In second place, the Reprographic Rights Organization of Ghana (CopyGhana) raked almost half a million Euros (EUR 492,189.34) in 2015 and out of this total, it distributed 492,189.34 Euros to only its national rights holders. In first place, not surprisingly, Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation (DALRO) in South Africa collected a staggering sum of 3,104,304.93 Euros out of which it paid out 2,882,549.61 Euros in royalties to both foreign and national rights holders. This means that DALRO’s cost-royalty ratio stands at an impressive 7:93 ratio.

As stakeholders in the reprography sector prepare to meet with KECOBO to discuss the future of Kopiken, it is clear that there is need for a sustainable solution that will put collective management of reproduction rights firmly on track to achieve some of the successes already being witnessed in other parts of Africa and the developing world.

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