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.
Maurice Okoth, former MCSK CEO (left) with his lawyer at the High Court for the delivery of the judgment.
Recently, the High Court delivered its judgment in the case of Republic v. The Director of Public Prosecutions and 4 Others Ex Parte Shamilla Kiptoo and 2 Others HCMA 510 of 2015 (Consolidated) in which the court granted the orders of certiorari and prohibition sought by the Applicants namely Maurice Okoth, Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), James Maweu Mutisya, former MCSK Board Director, Lillian Njoki Thuo, MCSK Management Accountant, Peter Kisala Enyenze, MCSK Regional Manager and Shamilla Kiptoo, Nasratech Limited Managing Director (and Okoth’s wife).
The order of Certiorari granted by the court quashes the decision, declaration and directive of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID), Inspector General of Police (IG), Chief Magistrate’s Court and the Attorney General (collectively referred to as the Respondents) to prefer criminal charges against the Applicants based on the facts contained in the Charge Sheet dated 18th November 2015 in Criminal Case No. 1904 of 2015 – Republic v. Dan Maurice Mwande Okoth & 6 others. The order of Prohibition granted by the court directed to the Respondents prohibits the prosecution of the Applicants based on the facts contained in the Charge Sheet dated 18th November 2015 in Criminal Case No. 1904 of 2015 – Republic versus Dan Maurice Mwande Okoth & 6 others. Finally, the court ordered the costs of the application to be borne by the DPP, CID and IG.
“We wish to underscore the importance of fostering creativity through respect and protection of intellectual property rights of others. A nation cannot be built on disregard for originality and promotion of copy cats.” – Excerpt from a press statement by Transcend Media Group.
This blogger has come across the recent case of Transcend Media Group Limited v. Saracen Media Limited & 2 Ors Civil Case No. 3644 of 2016 in which Senior Magistrate E.K Usui has granted temporary injunctive orders sought by Transcend, the applicant against Saracen and the two other respondents. The court granted Anton Piller orders allowing Transcend to enter the premises of the respondents to preserve, seize, collect and keep machines, data, documents and storage material relating to Transcend’s copyright work under the supervision of Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) officers. In addition, the respondents have been restrained by the court from any further infringement, alienation, distribution and storage of Transcend’s copyright work pending hearing of the suit.
According to a Business Daily report here, the genesis of this copyright dispute is a Sh208 million tender by Safaricom seeking to procure the services of an advertising agency to handle the mobile network operator’s youth segment brand communication which is now called BLAZE. Transcend submitted its strategy proposal and creative body of works to Safaricom but lost the bid to Saracen. Transcend alleges that Safaricom awarded the business to Saracen and a Company (Fieldstone Helms Limited) owned by former Transcend staff who were involved in Transcend’s bid including the team leader. As a result, Transcend claims that Fieldstone Helms is now “illegally implementing” Transcend’s intellectual property (IP).
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, this blogger reported here that the High Court had suspended the coming into force of the Tobacco Control Regulations 2014 made by the Cabinet Secretary for Health scheduled to take effect on 1st June 2015. Recently in the case of British American Tobacco Kenya Ltd v Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Health & 4 others  eKLR, 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 ‘Big Tobacco’ that their constitutional rights including intellectual property (IP) rights are being violated by the new Tobacco Regulations.
This blogger has recently come across an astute ruling by the High Court in the case of Music Copyright Society of Kenya v Chief Magistrate’s Court & Inspector General of Police  eKLR. Justice L. Kimaru sitting in the High Court was approached by the authors’ collecting society, Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) to stay orders issued by the Magistrate’s Court freezing all the bank accounts of MCSK following a request by the Serious Crimes Unit under the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). DCI requested that MCSK’s accounts be frozen as it investigates complaints made by MCSK members in regard to alleged misappropriation and theft of funds at the collecting society.
After carefully evaluating the facts before him, Kimaru J ruled that the investigations were lawful and based on several complaints received by DCI from MCSK members and that the orders to freeze MCSK’s accounts were within the precincts of the law.
This blogger has come across the recently published Gazette Notice No. 6612 in which the Chairman of the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) has appointed 31 persons to be inspectors for the purposes of the enforcement of the provisions of the Anti-Counterfeit Act. Several commentators have raised several serious concerns about ethnic and regional balancing in the appointments although there is no news of any legal or constitutionality challenges filed to challenge the appointments.