The latest draft of the proposed National Music Bill has been released by the Permanent Presidential Music Commission (PPMC). PPMC requests all stakeholders and interested parties to circulate it widely and email back (to: firstname.lastname@example.org) any contributions, comments, reactions, etc for consideration and possible inclusion. A copy of the draft document is available here.
This blogpost highlights some of the key features of the PPMC draft document including an apparent conflict with existing intellectual property (IP) legislation.
Previously we reported here that several members of Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) had filed a case in the Commercial Division of the High Court challenging a license pertaining to the caller ringback tones (CRBT) service known as “Skiza Tunes” owned by mobile network operator, Safaricom issued by the three music collective management organisations (CMOs) including MCSK.
While the outcome of this commercial suit is still pending, we have come across a recently delivered judgment in the case of Petition No. 350 of 2015 David Kasika & 4 Ors v. Music Copyright Society of Kenya in which several MCSK members alleged that the collection of royalties by MCSK under the CRBT license agreement in question violates their constitutional rights, that the making available of works for download on Safaricom’s CRBT service amounts to a private performance as such section 30A of the Copyright Act does not apply and thus the CMOs cannot collect royalties on behalf of its members as required under the section. Finally, the petition invited the court to weigh in on several damning allegations made regarding mismanagement by MCSK in its collection and distribution of members’ royalties.
Previously we reported here that two content service providers and three individual copyright owners had filed a constitutional petition at the High Court challenging the content of the equitable remuneration right in section 30A of the Copyright Act, the application and implementation of section 30A by the collective management organisations (CMOs) and the manner of licensing and supervision of the CMOs by Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO).
Recently in the case of Petition No. 317 of 2015 Xpedia Management Limited & 4 Ors v. The Attorney General & 4 Ors Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi (known to many readers for her landmark decision on anti-counterfeit law and access to medicines here) delivered a judgment at the High Court dismissing claims by content service providers and the copyright owners that the contents and implementation of section 30A are unconstitutional.
This blogpost has been prompted by two recent developments in Kenya and Namibia. In Kenya, the High Court recently delivered a ruling in the case of Music Copyright Society of Kenya Limited & another v Multichoice (K) Limited & another  eKLR in which the court dismissed the copyright infringement suit filed by the collective management organisation MCSK against Multichoice. Meanwhile in Namibia, a recent report here reveals one of the reasons why Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) which receives royalties from Multichoice has failed to distribute them to other concerned African copyright societies.
In the above public notice in today’s newspaper, Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) states as follows:
“This is to inform the general public that Mr. Dan Maurice Okoth resigned from his position as the Chief Executive Officer of MCSK. Mr. Okoth ceased to be an employee of MCSK from 24th March 2016. He is therefore, not authorized to transact any business in the name of or on behalf of MCSK and that MCSK shall not take responsibility for any transactions made by him”
Where to begin?
Section 6(a) of the Copyright Act states that the Board of Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) shall consist of “a chairman, who shall be appointed by the Minister from amongst the members of registered copyright societies”. The Copyright Act as read with the Interpretation and General Provisions Act defines “Minister” as the Attorney-General who is “the Minister for the time being responsible for matters relating to copyright and related rights.” Under Article 156(4)(a) of the Constitution of Kenya states that the Attorney-General is the “principal legal adviser to the Government” which presumes that the A-G, in the case of public appointments, would have been consulted on their legality or lack thereof especially where those appointments touch on the A-G’s own docket!
Last week, the ever-busy Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) published a public notice stating that it had approved the renewals of registration as collecting societies for Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) and Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRiSK) for the period January 1st to December 31st 2016. According to KECOBO, the collection by the three collecting societies in the area of music will be “jointly undertaken as per the work plan agreed by the three societies in the interest of cutting costs and reducing business disruption.”
Further, KECOBO explains that: “Each [collecting] society shall be required to undertake certain reforms in the course of the first half of the year with a review scheduled for July 2016. KECOBO shall issue an advertisement in July  inviting companies established for the purpose to express interest and bid to collect in 2017 to facilitate transitions if a new establishment is granted a license.”
For KECOBO and the collecting societies this is no mean feat given the long journey thus far towards a single license regime for users of musical works and sound recordings in Kenya. However, KECOBO’s notice leaves out some crucial details which will ultimately determine whether this latest attempt at joint collection will succeed or fail.