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As part of CIPIT’s daily interactions with creatives, the Centre is embarking on an Intellectual Property explainer series. Tailor-made for creators. No legalese, no jargon. Just practical information. The main focus of these blogs is the various Collective Management Organisations (CMO’s) that operate in Kenya. In this blog, Cynthia Nzuki, introduces what CMO’s are, what they do and whether they are effectively and efficiently managing copyright on behalf of their members.

By Cynthia Nzuki*

Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) are private not-for-profit entities licensed to collect and distribute royalties for and among its members. In Kenya, there are presently five main CMO’s licensed by the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), as mandated by the Copyright Act of Kenya. They are:

  • The Reproduction Rights Society of Kenya (KOPIKEN),
  • Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP),
  • Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) (license here), and
  • The Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRiSK) (joint license here).[1]

Over the years, these organizations have received a lot of criticism for alleged misappropriation and unscrupulous handling of their members’ revenue; some more than others.

These bodies have different roles and functions.

KOPIKEN licenses the reproduction of copyright-protected literary materials against payment of fees whenever it is impractical for the rights holders to license and collect fees individually. KOPIKEN members are authors and publishers of literally works.

KAMP represents the rights and interests of producers of sound recordings, where they collect license fees and distribute royalties among its members.

MCSK is mandated to collect royalties in public performance and broadcasting, on behalf of its members and to distribute the revenue to its members. MCSK members comprise of authors, composers, and publishers of musical works.

PRiSK represents performers in musical and dramatic works. It is mandated to manage performers’ rights effectively and efficiently through collecting remuneration on behalf of the rights holders from various users of performers’ works and distributing royalties to those rights holders.

In 2017, KECOBO licensed the Music Producers Association of Kenya (MPAKE) to collect and distribute royalties on behalf of authors, composers, and publishers.

The establishment of these organizations is governed by the Constitution of Kenya, Companies Act, and the Copyright Act.

Recently MCSK (news piece here) was once again on the spot after distributing to its members a sum of Ksh.2, 530 in royalties. On 14th August 2019 in a press release, MCSK explained that the amount distributed to the artists was a Performance in Public Places distribution paid to every member of MCSK by virtue of being a member with the society and that the payment had even been done earlier than it was to be. MCSK’s actions raised a lot of fury among artists who took to their social media platforms to express their agitation and frustration with the organization. Of all the CMO’s licensed by KECOBO, MCSK has constantly been questioned about its management, accountability, and transparency to its members (some historical background here).

In 2016, the Kenyan afro-pop music trio known as Elani came out to the public to air out their concerns and dissatisfaction with MCSK (video here). They stated that the entity had paid them Ksh.31, 000 in royalties following a year of having hit songs being played all-round, and according to them, that payment ‘did not add up’. To address this, they sought to further investigate how MCSK had arrived at that amount. On questioning the entity and MCSK failed to provide a plausible answer instead paying the trio Ksh.300, 000 in ‘compensation’. It’s not clear this was compensation was for what and how the amount was arrived at effectively raising more eyebrows and questions.

All this was followed by KECOBO revoking MCSK’s license in 2017 and licensing Music Publishers Association of Kenya (MPAKE). The revocation occurred after MCSK failed to submit a list of its members and amounts received in royalties and its latest audited financial statements for the year ending June 2016. This would not have been the first time MCSK’s license was revoked, as it had happened again in 2011. The license was reinstated at the beginning of 2019.

The above illustrate only a small percentage of complaints issued by CMO members towards the management of CMO’s. As can be seen above, MCSK has been on the receiving end for a long time. Questions on accountability, transparency, and management continue to linger and a better understanding of how CMOs ought to operate and clarity on their governance much needed too. This includes the much-needed active member participation as CMOs are membership entities. In a bid to explain CMO operations, we will explore their legal framework of the CMOs in our next post as well as their regulatory framework.


[1]https://www.copyright.go.ke/8-program/4-cmo.html

*Cynthia is an Intern Researcher at CIPIT, she recently graduated from Strathmore Law School.