Copyright and Law of Succession: High Court Suspends Payments of Les Wanyika Royalties

 

This blogger has come across the recently reported case of Sijali Salum Zuwa & 4 others v Pamela Akinyi Atieno [2016] eKLR involving a dispute over authorship and ownership of several musical works attributed to the legendary band, Les Wanyika. From 1978 to date, several founding band members have died namely Omar ‘Professor’ Shaban, Issa Juma, Mohamed Tika, John Ngereza and Foni Mkwanyule.The surviving members of the band filed suit in the High Court challenging a grant of letters of administration obtained by Pamela Akinyi, the widow of Shabani over her late husband’s estate including some forty eight (48) songs by Les Wanyika. One such song is “Pamela” (captured in the video at the start of this post) written by Shabani and dedicated to Pamela, who is the defendant in the present suit.
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Them Mushrooms Band Awarded 3 Million Shillings in Copyright Suit Against Royal Media Services

The judgment in John Katana Harrison v. Royal Media Services Ltd 6161 of 2009 sets an important precedent in the area of copyright law in Kenya. It is trite law that the right to authorize the inclusion of any musical works in an audio-visual work or a broadcast, which is known as a synchronization right, can only be authorised/licensed by the respective foreign or local copyright owners.

In reality, this blogger has observed with alot of concern that there are a number of production studios, broadcasters, marketing and advertising companies in Kenya that include musical works in their productions. The most common examples are the Wedding Shows that are aired on local television networks. These shows include a whole repertoire of well-known local and foreign musical works from various genres. Following the judgment in the Katana case, this blogger would advise all parties concerned in the synchronisation of musical works to ensure that express consent has been duly obtained and where necessary, the desired license agreements are in place.

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