‘Fire in the Sky’ (pictured above) is a stunning photograph of Nairobi’s skyline lit up against the backdrop of New Years’ fireworks. In April 2018, this work by Reinhard Mue aka Rey Matata was unlawfully copied and used by Law Society of Kenya (LSK). In June 2018, Reinhard wrote to LSK complaining about infringement of the rights to his copyright work and threatened to take legal action. To-date, LSK and its elected leaders have failed to respond to Reinhard at all, either formally or otherwise. As a member of LSK, this blogger is disappointed that the LSK leadership has allowed such a straight-forward matter to become a public spectacle.
This blogger has recently come across a judgment by the Court of Appeal in Nigeria in the long-running case of MCSN v. Details (Nig.) Ltd (CA/L/506/1999). In this case an exparte order had been obtained by MCSN against Details for unauthorized use of musical works. Details raised objections on the ground that MCSK lacked locus standi to bring the action. Details noted that since MCSN had provided evidence that it represented more than two million artistes, it was practically performing the functions of a collecting society and therefore required the approval of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) to carry on the activities of a collecting society.
MCSN denied suing as a collecting society but rather as an owner, assignee and exclusive licensee as contemplated in Section 15 of the Act. Having considered all the evidence, inclusive of the deed of assignments executed with members of MCSN which clearly spelt out that the activities to be undertaken were those within the purview of the attributes of a collecting society, the court ruled that: “it is for the foregoing reasons that I have come to the inexorable conclusion, after deep reflection, that the plaintiff is a collecting society. Not having been registered pursuant to Section 32B(4) of the Copyright Act, it cannot be permitted to operate as such body. To do so would be tantamount to subverting not only the letter but also the spirit of the copyright laws of this country”.
This blogger has confirmed a recent media report that the two related rights collecting societies: Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) and Performers’ Rights Society of Kenya (PRiSK) have simultaneously taken five broadcasting organisations to court for infringement of copyright. The five identical suits HCCC No. 322, 323, 324, 325 & 326 of 2015 have been filed in the Commercial Division of the High Court against Royal Media Services (RMS), Nation Media Group (NMG), Standard Group (SG), MediaMax Network (MMN) and national broadcaster, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).
PRiSK and KAMP claim that they are mandated to collect license fees on behalf of the performers and producers of sound recordings and duly notified the five broadcasters that it is under an obligation under Sections 27, 30A, 35(1)(a), 25 and 38(2) and 38(7) of the Copyright Act to pay licensing fees in respect of sound recordings and audio-visual works broadcast to the public. In this regard, the collecting societies claim that the broadcasters have all failed and/or neglected to pay the requisite license fees to KAMP and PRiSK from the year 2010 until and up to the year 2014.