Copyright body now waltzes into Sauti Sol, Azimio tangle over song

Kenya Copyright Board's Executive Director Edward Sigei [Courtesy]

The  Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo) has faulted the Azimio Coalition for using a Kenyan band’s composition without permission. The band, Sauti Sol, on Monday threatened to sue the Azimio Coalition, whose presidential candidate is Raila Odinga, for allegedly using their ‘Extravaganza’ song without their permission.

In a statement signed by the band members Bien Aime, Polycarp Otieno, Willis Austin and Delvin Savara, Sauti Sol said their song was used as background music in a graphic to unveil Martha Karua as Mr Odinga’s running mate.

“The former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s social media accounts have without license nor authority used one of our more popular original compositions, ‘Extravaganza’, as a soundtrack to the announcement post of the running mate.

“We did not license this song to the Azimio la Umoja campaign neither did we give any consents for its use in the announcement of their Vice-Presidential candidate,” the statement read in part. 

“We are disappointed by the Azimio la Umoja Campaign’s blatant disregard of our right to control the use of our copyright. We shall be seeking legal remedy for this clear violation of our right,” said Sauti Sol.

Showing love

In response to Sauti Sol’s statement, Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) said they had no ill intention by playing their song, but rather, showing love for their work.

“We would like to assure our celebrated musical team @sautisol that we love them and appreciate their music so much. The group has carried our country’s flag so high in international fora and every Kenyan appreciates this. Playing their song yesterday was a show of love for their work,” ODM posted on Twitter.

On May 7, the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) said that Raila Odinga paid Sh526,000 to acquire license to play music during his presidential campaigns.

“It’s gratifying to see that Presidential candidates @RailaOdinga are complying with the Copyright law by paying for music used in their political campaigns.

“We thank @Winnie_Odinga and the entire @RailaOdinga Presidential team for this gesture and urge other political candidates to emulate them by making payments for the use of copyrighted musical works in their campaigns,” MCSK posted on Twitter.

However, the Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo) faulted Azimio Coalition for using Sauti Sol’s music without permission.

“Our attention has been drawn to the social media discussion following complaints by Sauti Sol against Azimio Coalition. The incident raised a pertinent question whether all exploitation of sound recording fall within the power of the Collective Management Organisation,” said Edward Sigei, the Kecobo executive director, in a statement.

“This is to clarify that separate sets of rights in a sound recording are managed concurrently by the composer, publisher and collective management organisations where they are operational. Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) generally issue a license authorising entities to use the sound recordings for public performance.” 

Sauti Sol said the song was as one of their most “distinct compositions,” adding that Azimio’s actions were a blatant copyright infringement as directed by Section 35 CAP 170 of the Copyright Act of Kenya.

“It is in 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, 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 users authorised by a public performance license.

Authority to negotiate

“In this case, synchronised rights are at issue and as such, a synchronised license is needed. A synchronised license can only be issued by the composer and publisher. They have the authority to negotiate and issue a synchronized license,” Sigei said in the statement. 

In their defense, the Collective Management Organisations that include MCSK, Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) and the Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) said they had jointly licensed Odinga to use music in his political campaign.

In their letter dated May 11, the music societies outlined the agreement they had reached with Raila on the use of sound recordings, audio visual works and musical works, a license that is meant to expire in May next year.