MCSK, copyright board fight over control of royalties escalates

KECOBO Executive Director Edward Sigei and MCSK Chief Executive Officer Ezekiel Mutua.

Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) Executive Director Edward Sigei and Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) Chief Executive Officer Ezekiel Mutua.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) has defied orders by the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) stopping it from further collecting music royalties, with the MCSK, headed by Chief Executive Officer Ezekiel Mutua, insisting it will carry on with the exercise.

In a letter dated January 11, 2023, the MCSK wrote to the Office of the Ombudsman (Commission on Administrative Justice) calling for the removal of KECOBO Executive Director Edward Sigei from office.

In the letter addressed to CEO Mercy Kalondu Wambua, MCSK accused Mr Sigei of high handedness and abuse of office.

“MCSK hereby presents a petition to your office on behalf of its over 15,000 copyright holders/assignors for the removal of Mr Edward Sigei as the Executive Director of Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO).”

The CMO said it has always done its due diligence to co-operate with KECOBO as the regulator of CMOs but has always been frustrated by the board.

“While MCSK has done everything to comply with the law and serve its members effectively, it has faced numerous frustrations from the regulator, particularly the person of Mr Edward Sigei who appears conflicted and hell bent in killing the music industry.

“These frustrations have been executed and manifested by Mr Sigei through denial of issuance of a CMO licence to MCSK, draconian and unilateral conditions for issuance of a CMO licence…and arbitrary/unfair actions by revocation of a CMO licence without following the laid down due procedures,” Mr Mutua stated in the letter.

At the time, Mr Sigei told Nation.Africa that, “I think it would be good to present the evidence to the necessary authorities…There are legitimate platforms and standards to address denial of licence issues.”

A day after Dr Mutua wrote the letter seeking Mr Sigei’s removal, KECOBO, the regulator of Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) such as MCSK, stopped the limited company from further collection of music royalties. MCSK had applied for a new operational licence for 2023, but KECOBO declined the CMO’s application.

In a letter dated January 12, 2023, addressed to Dr Mutua, the regulator faulted MCSK for contravening section 46 of the Copyright Act No. 12 of 2001 and the Copyright (Collective Management) Regulations 2020.

The letter seen by Nation.Africa was signed Mr Sigei.

“As per my last communication addressed to your advocates, I wish to inform you that your licence application was incomplete for non-payment of requisite fee for 2021 and 2023 licensing period, and failure to provide the following documents required by the Copyright regulations 2020:

a. List of beneficiaries and amounts paid in royalties for 2022

b. Audited Financial Statements for period up to June 2022

c. Failure to provide an authenticated list of members.”

Sigei stated in the circular.

“As such, KECOBO was unable to process MCSK’s application as I cannot ascertain the CMO’s capacity to manage the royalties for authors, composers, and arranger and publisher category of members through a full review and analysis of the documents of application presented.”

With the application denied, KECOBO ordered MSCK to stop collecting music royalties of its 16,000 members with immediate effect.

“This is therefore to inform you that your application has failed to meet the statutory standard for the above reasons set out. You are directed to cease collection forthwith.”

The next day, MCSK, in another letter to KECOBO titled ‘MCSK Application for 2023 License’, acknowledged receipt of the letter denying them the licence.

In the letter, Dr Mutua stated that MCSK would continue collecting royalties, maintaining that KECOBO has no powers to stop the organisation from doing so.

“Please take not that MCSK is not currently collecting royalties on the basis of a licence from KECOBO but on the basis of the Court of Appeal in Nairobi in Civil application No. E395 2022 that authorised MCSK to continue collecting royalties until expedited hearing of Civil Appeal No E888 of 2022, which will be set down for hearing in February 2023.”

MCSK went on to state that their request for a new licence for this year was long overdue having applied for it four months ago, accusing KECOBO of dilly-dallying in executing the application.

“Consequently our application for a 2023 CMO licence dated 25th October 2023, was overtaken by events following the decision of the Court of Appeal on 20th December 2022. Your purported decision to deny MCSK a licence as well as your unilateral, draconian and illegal orders for MCSK to cease collection is laughable, null and void and amounts to abuse of office and contempt of Court order,” Dr Mutua added.

From various documents over the last five years, MCSK collects over Sh100 million as music royalties annually.