High Court Judgment on Caller Ringback Tones, Definition of Public Performance and Regulation of Collecting Societies

IMG-20151023-WA0023 edaily dot co dot ke

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.

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High Court Judgment on Constitutionality of Equitable Remuneration Right and Copyright Collective Management

skiza safaricom caller ringback tone service copyright license collective management society

 

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.

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Blind Opposition to Caller Ringtone Deal between Safaricom and Collecting Societies: High Court Case of Irene Mutisya & Anor v. MCSK & Anor

Robert Collymore CEO Safaricom

This blogger has recently come across Nairobi High Court Civil Case No. 262 of 2015 Irene Mutisya & Anor v. Music Copyright Society of Kenya & Anor. In this case Mutisya and another copyright owner Masivo have filed suit against Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) and mobile network operator Safaricom Limited for copyright infringement. The copyright owners filed an urgent application on 30th July 2015 for a temporary injunction to restrain Safaricom from remitting license fees to MCSK pursuant to a recently concluded license agreement for caller ring-back tones (CRBT) made available through Safaricom’s Skiza platform. The copyright owners also asked the court to restrain both Safaricom and MCSK from implementing the CRBT License Agreement pending the hearing of the application.

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Legality of Equitable Remuneration Challenged: High Court Petition of Xpedia & 4 Ors v. Attorney General & 4 Ors

equitable remuneration

Editor’s Note: On 31st July 2015, the urgent application in this Petition No.317 of 2015 dated 29th July 2015 was heard and certain interim orders were granted. A copy of the orders is available here.

This blogger has confirmed a recent media report that two content service providers and three copyright owners have jointly filed a petition challenging the constitutionality of the right to equitable remuneration under the now infamous section 30A of the Copyright Act. The Petition was filed against the Attorney General, Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP), Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRiSK) and Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK).

As stated above, the crux of the Petition filed by Xpedia Management Limited, Liberty Afrika Technologies Limited, Elijah Mira, Francis Jumba and Carolyne Ndiba is that KAMP, PRiSK and MCSK should be stopped by the court from receiving or collecting royalties under section 30A of the Copyright Act in respect of works owned or claimed by the Petitioners.

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Nigeria’s Court of Appeal Attempts to Clarify Law on Copyright Collective Management

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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”.

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Lessons for MCSK from Nigeria: Music Copyright Society of Kenya Must Administer Rights Even Without Government License

MCSK royalties music kenya

“…there has been a bickering and attendant judicial skirmish over who is the sole Collector in Nigeria, at the time of penning this piece, the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) seems to be recognized as such. However, it is an anomaly in my opinion as there could be more bodies to administer Royalty collection. In all honesty, it is doubtful if a sole collecting society can effectively subdue the difficulties experienced in the administration of Royalty collection and the Publishing industry in Nigeria.” —Mr. Akinyemi Ayinoluwa “@akinyemilaw”, Nigerian IP lawyer and blogger

It is reported that on 28th May 2013, employees of the Music Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) will once again be in court facing charges of operating as a collecting society without the approval of the government regulator, Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC). However in civil court, the latest judgment handed down by the Nigerian Federal High Court was against the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), with respect to its decision and actions against MCSN. The Court on 18 March 2013 declared the actions of the NCC against MCSN as unlawful and unconstitutional and reaffirms an earlier judgment of the Court which declared Section 39 of the Nigerian Copyright Act upon which the NCC relied in taking its decisions on collective management of rights, unconstitutional, null and void.

A copy of the judgment made by the Court in this matter is available here.

Similarly in Kenya, the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) and the government regulator, Kenya Copyright Board (KeCoBo) have not always seen eye-to-eye on certain aspects of collective management of copyright in Kenya. This apparent tension culminated in the deregistration of MCSK as a collecting society by KeCoBo in 2011. The decision by KeCoBo to renew MCSK’s license was made in mid-2012 which means that its license will be up for renewal again soon. Under section 46 of the Copyright Act of 2001, KeCoBo has the responsibility of licensing and supervising all collective management organisations (CMOs) in Kenya. KeCoBo has come up with its guidelines for licensing of CMOs and renewal of licenses for CMOs available here.

For the purposes of our present discussion, let us look closely at the above recent judgment in MCSN & 7 Ors vs. NCC & 4 Ors Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1163/12.

Read the rest of this article on the CIPIT Law Blog here.