Ezekiel Mutua: Raila's Azimio had the rights to use Sauti Sol music

Sauti Sol

Sauti Sol band members, from left, Polycarp Otieno, Willis Chimano, Savara Mudigi and Bien-Aimé Baraza. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) CEO Ezekiel Mutua has faulted the Kenya Copyrights Board (Kecobo) for siding with music group Sauti Sol following the bands row with Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition party for copyright infringement.

Dr Mutua said the statement issued by Kenya Copyrights Board (Kecobo) is misleading since Sauti Sol as members of MCSK signed their rights to the society to administer copyright on their behalf.

“This is a totally misleading and misguided statement by Kecobo. We licensed the Raila Odinga Presidential campaign using the existing tariffs gazetted by the Govt. Our members, including Sauti Sol, have assigned their rights to MCSK to administer copyright on their behalf,” Ezekiel Mutua said.

According to Kecobo, Azimio had violated a copyright law through synchronization of one of the artist's songs.

They clarified that the party needed a synchronised licence and not the audio licence for which Mr Odinga paid nearly Sh500,000.

“Collective Management Organizations generally issue a license authorizing entities to use the sound recordings for public performance. It is public domain that Azimio has obtained a public performance license allowing it to play both local and international music at its rallies and events,” Kecobo executive director Edward Sigei said.

“However the use of sound recording as soundtrack with visual images in a film, video, television show, commercial or other audio-visual production is not part of those uses authorised by a public performance license. A synchronization license can only be issued by the composer and publisher. They have the authority to negotiate and issue a synchronization license,” he went on.

However, award-winning music group Sauti Sol said yesterday it will go ahead with its legal suit against Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance for breach of copyright.

Lead vocalist Bien-Aime Barasa told this reporter in an interview that Azimio had, in breach of agreement, synchronised Sauti Sol’s hit song Extravaganza with other films to promote and market the coalition’s campaigns.

This, Bien said, was not covered by the licensing fees the party paid to the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) to use local music in its campaigns.

The license given by MCSK to Azimio allows the party to use any music of its choice, whether local or international, in its campaigns ahead of the August General Election.

In a statement on Monday, Sauti Sol accused Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga of not seeking authorisation from the band to play Extravaganza during the announcement of his running mate at Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi.

The band said the action by Azimio was a flagrant disregard of their basic and fundamental rights to property and freedom of association, and that it amounted to copyright infringement under Kenyan law.

Sauti Sol also claimed that use of their music without their express approval took away their right to own and control their intellectual property while at the same time forcefully associating them with a political campaign.

“This speaks volumes about how music is still not taken seriously in our country,” Bien protested yesterday. “It explains why artists are still paid a meagre Sh1,500 by Collective Management Organisations. We are going to seek legal redress and we do not have any personal fights with Azimio.”

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party, of which Mr Odinga is the party leader, responded to Sauti Sol’s claims with a friendly message, saying “we would like to assure our celebrated musical team Sauti Sol that we love them and appreciate their music so much”, and that “the group has carried our country’s flag so high in international fora and every Kenyan appreciates this”, therefore “playing their song yesterday was a show of love for their work” .

The standoff has attracted various reactions from Kenyans, including the Kenya Copyrights Board (Kecobo), which asked the two to resolve the matter amicably.

Kecobo executive director Edward Sigei noted that “Collective Management Organisations generally issue a license authorising entities to use the sound recordings for public performance”, and that “it is in the public domain that Azimio has obtained a public performance licence allowing it to play both local and international music at its rallies and events” .

“However,” continued Mr Sigei, “the use of sound recording as soundtrack with visual images in a film, video, television show, commercial or other audio-visual production is not part of those uses authorised by a public performance license. A synchronisation license can only be issued by the composer and publisher. They have the authority to negotiate and issue a synchronisation license.”

Section 38 (c) of the Kenya Copyright Act 2021 stipulates that “any person who causes a literary or musical work, an audio-visual work or a sound recording, to be performed in public at a time when copyright subsists in such work or sound recording, and where such performance is an infringement of that copyright, shall be guilty of an offence”.

Offenders face a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 or a jail sentence of four years, or both.

During the 2017 election campaigns, the other two CMOs — the Kenya Association of Music Producers and the Performers Rights Society of Kenya – jointly released the same tariffs charged for respective licences.

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