MPs drop contentious clause in copyright Bill, favour artistes

Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

A parliamentary committee has dropped a contentious clause in the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that sought to make it hard for internet service providers to pull down pirated content.

The Bill by Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga seeks to provide for fair revenue sharing formula for ringback tones between artistes and telecommunication companies.

It also sought to repeal sections 35B, 35C and 35D of the Copy Right Act, essentially making it difficult for content creators to protect their ownership rights.

Yesterday, Ms Wanga dropped the offensive clause when she appeared before National Assembly’s Committee on Information, Communication and Innovation.

The said clause had triggered protests by stakeholders in the industry.

“We are keeping the ringback tone and the national rights registry. I am dropping piracy only,” she said.

The Woman Rep explained that sections of the Copyright Act provide that a content creator can demand that internet service provider pull down content that violates copyright.

“The Bill proposes to repeal the provisions on take down notices and requirements, the role of ISPs and application for an injunction. It is intended to remove the ambiguity in the role of the internet service provider,” states the Bill that is due for the Committee of the Whole House.

The Bill is a major win for artistes as it provides that they get 52 per cent of revenue generated from their ringback tones. Currently, the artistes are only entitled to 16 per cent of the revenue with telecommunication companies getting the Lion’s share of 52 per cent.

In their submission to the committee, the artistes expressed their support for the proposed revenue sharing formula. They narrated their frustrations in getting their payments from Premium Rate Service Providers (PRSP).

According to the Bill, artistes will get 52 per cent of the revenue as well as an additional benefit of 9 per cent excise tax benefit.

At the same time,16 per cent will go to the telecommunication companies, another 7 per cent will go to PRSP while 16 will be Value Added Tax.

The new formula implies that for Sh1.50 payment per day for Skiza tune, the artistes will pocket Sh0.92 being a sum of Sh0.78 being 52 per cent artist share and Sh0.14 being 9 per cent of the exercise benefit to the artist.

PRSP will retain Sh0.10, Sh0.24 being 16 per cent telco share while the taxman will take home Sh0.24 being 16 per cent being VAT.

With an annual gross revenue of Sh7.58 billion generated from Skiza tune, artistes will retain Sh4.63 billion.

Safaricom recently changed the Skiza tune charges from Sh1 per day to Sh1.50 per day. Further, the government issued a 10 per cent excise tax exemption to Skiza. The artistes share went up while the PRSP share remained the same.

MPs yesterday accused Safaricom of benefiting more than the artistes. The lawmakers said the artistes have been turned into beggars when their contents were generating billions of shillings.

“We will make sure that Safaricom does business and artistes also get their payment. We are all in business,” said committee chair Jane Wanjiku (Embu).

Wanga said majority of artistes were struggling to meet basic needs as they do not benefit from the songs.

“Our business is representation and we want to know what the artistes get. Many of our artists are not earning their keep,” she said.

But Safaricom through its Head of Regulatory and Public Policy, Kiu Kinyanjui, said they have no control on what platform providers remit to the artists.

The telco said the artistes have commercial agreements between them and the providers.

“It is difficult for Safaricom to know what each artiste gets. These are commercial agreements between the parties and we are not party to the agreements,” said Kinyanjui.

“We pay the 40 per cent but we don’t know how that money is shared. But we have created a portal where the artistes can follow how their songs are performing and also follow up on what they should get as a pay,” she added.