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Matatu operators risk hefty fines on music licences

Matatu Operators and concert promoters risk a fine of Sh500,000 following the reintroduction of music licenses by the new Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) CEO Ezekiel Mutua.

Speaking in Machakos, flanked by Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) and Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) members, Mutua announced the reinstatement of the music licenses to establishments or events keen to use local music publicly.

The licenses were suspended in 2020 following the outbreak of the Corona virus pandemic to caution various businesses that use or play music for their own promotions.

“Following the pandemic that crippled businesses not only here in Kenya but globally, we are now laying strategies to get back on our feet. Part of those strategies is engagement with our clients. The work of Collective Management Organizations (MSCK, PRISK and KAMP), is not to kill or fight businesses. Our work principally is to collect and distribute royalties for our members. As we rise from the pandemic music plays a critical role both as a career and an avenue to create wealth and jobs,” Mutua stated.

With the reinstatement of the licenses, Mutua who replaced Milcah Kulati last month, stated that his organization will start forthwith issuing the licenses to the relevant parties with the intention of collecting enough money for distribution to their members.

The MCSK Chief Executive maintained, failure to pay for the licenses amounts to exploitation of artists who have worked hard to produce content but earn little in royalties.

Mutua warned that persons or establishments who will not adhere to the collection rules as it has been the case with some in the past, they will be taken to court and charged with infringement of Section 38 of the Kenya Copyrights Act 2021.

According to the said Copyright Section 38 that provides provisions for offence and penalties for infringement, subsection (2) states 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 performances is an infringement of that copyright shall be guilty of an offence unless he is able to prove that he had acted in good faith and had no reasonable grounds for supposing that copyright would or might be infringed”.

In such a scenario, Subsection (7) will take precedence stating,
“Any person guilty of an offence under subsection (2) shall be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding four years or to both.

With this enforcement, bars, restaurants, hotels, salons, exhibitions, cyber cafes and banks will not be spared either.

This development comes just days after PRISK stirred an uproar by members after paying them royalties amounting to Sh1,215.