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Dennis Itumbi challenges Ezekiel Mutua on royalty collection and distribution.”

By Winnie Onyando February 19th, 2024 2 min read

Digital strategist Dennis Itumbi has entered the fray, advocating government intervention in the collection and distribution process to reduce exorbitant administrative costs.

Itumbi’s stance has drawn a sharp rebuke from Ezekiel Mutua, the head of the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK).

Mutua, who defends the autonomy of collective management organisations (CMOs) like MCSK, emphasised their voluntary nature and independence from government interference.

In a tweet, he explained, “The government has no business interfering in the operations of CMOs. They are governed by their articles of association and bylaws. And by the way, we are all for accountability. We are all for technology. We are just against government interference in private property.”

He questioned Itumbi’s commitment to facilitating revenue streams for artists, noting the importance of services such as Skiza Tunes and streaming platforms to artists’ income.

Also read: MCSK boss Ezekiel Mutua takes on Moses Kuria in royalties row

Mutua added: “A licence from the government is not a favour. It’s a service. Even banks, media houses and private companies are licensed. It doesn’t make the government part of the administration. You are conflicted on this issue and you will end up embarrassing the president.”

Itumbi responded by pointing to years of inefficiency and vague promises, arguing that the current system needed a digital overhaul. He proposed a government-led initiative to create a digital platform for managing royalties, ensuring transparency and minimising fraudulent practices. Itumbi stressed the need for artists to receive their due compensation promptly and in full, noting that 80% of the functions of the MCSK could be digitised.

“Get ready for a digital CMO, not a CMO with a digital platform. 80% of what MCSK does can be done by a digital platform so that the artists get the full benefit,” Itumbi said, “Licensing is a matter of regulation. To ensure that CMOs are free from fraud. A digital CMO is one way of ensuring that what is collected on behalf of artists reaches them.”

He explained, “The CMO does not have to be MCSK or X or Y. My only conflict on this issue is my desire to resolve it once and for all with the scales tilted in favour of the artists. If you are preparing for court, as you have threatened to do, instruct the lawyer to prepare in advance, my friend, because it will be eCitizen, so that the musicians can be in control. They work so hard, with little resources, and they deserve to get the result of their sweat. We will sort this out. I promise you that.”

Also read: Ezekiel Mutua, Angela Ndambuki say CMOs can’t pay musicians deserved royalties

Mutua, while acknowledging the potential of digital platforms, reiterated concerns about government interference in private entities and the potential for cartel influence.

“We are not against eCitizen,” Mutua replied, “We are already using it in our operations. We are against cartels and people using their position in government to interfere with a private right.”

Itumbi responded: “When eCitizen takes over the collection and distribution of royalties, avenues for fraud will be cut off and artists will monitor their earnings on a real-time basis and receive their full rightful reward for their creative works.”