The raison d’etre of the collective administration or collective management system in copyright law is to bridge the gap between rights holders and users of copyright works. So, what happens when collecting societies, or as they are commonly called collective management organisations (CMOs), fail to carry out this core function and instead become poster children for corruption, mismanagement, lack of transparency, and abuse of power?
Back in 2013, Jonathan Band and Brandon Butler published an insightful article titled ‘Some Cautionary Tales About Collective Licensing’ which exposed the dark side of CMOs around the world. This blogger was pleased that some of our work in the context of CMOs in Kenya was featured in the article, specifically the on-going wrangles between Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) and literally everyone else including the copyright regulator, copyright owners, copyright users and even other Kenyan CMOs in the music industry.
Fast forward five years to present day, Band and Butler have recently noted that: ‘CMOs around the world have continued to misbehave, often serving their own interests at the expense of artists and the public. We decided it was time to recount these latest episodes.’ Once more, Kenya has featured alongside Nigeria as the two countries in Africa with active cases of CMO misconduct. Outside Africa, some of the countries with misbehaving CMOs featured include Australia, Belgium, Japan, United Kingdom, United States, among others.
In 2017, the International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies (CISAC) reported that royalty collections from African CMOs were €67m in 2016, representing only 0.7% of the overall share of global collections. In this connection, this blogger is currently carrying out research to examine the connection between the governance problem in African collective rights management and the performance of CMOs in promoting creativity and stimulating economic development. Is tightening regulation of CMOs necessarily the best way to tackle the governance problem? If so, what should this regulation look like given the peculiarities of the African context?