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What new law on copyright means for musicians

President Uhuru Kenyatta signs into law the 2021 Copyright (Amendment) Bill. [PSCU]
 President Uhuru Kenyatta. [PSCU]

The 2021 Copyright Amendment Bill signed into law by President Mr Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday promises higher revenues for artistes.

The Bill, published by the National Assembly on October 6, 2021, and passed by Parliament in February, provides artistes with a bigger share of revenue from their ring-back tones, earning 52 per cent.

When the service started in 2009, artistes would get 7.5 per cent of the proceeds, but this has been increased over the years to 40 per cent last year.

Under the new law, premium rate service providers will get 8.5 per cent, telecommunication operator 39.5 per cent and the artistes or owner of the copyright shall be entitled to not less than 52 per cent of the revenue.

With Skiza Tunes charging an average of Sh1.50 per user, per day, it means artistes or copyright holders will get Sh0.78, with telecommunication companies and premium rate service providers pocketing Sh0.59 and Sh0.13 respectively.

With the annual gross revenue from Skiza Tunes pegged at about Sh7.58 billion, artistes will be retaining Sh4.63 billion “The paradox is whether our artistes get to earn what they deserve and this is what the Copyright Amendment Bill seeks to deal with. We need to put our artistes where they belong. This is going to be revolutionary for the creative industry and our artistes,” said the bill’s sponsor, Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga, during House proceedings.

Music Copyright Society of Kenya Chief Executive Ezekiel Mutua said in a statement that the law would make Kenyan artistes wealthy and reward them for their effort. “The exploitation of musical works through technology has been largely tilted in favour of business people, including tech companies, telecommunications operators and broadcasters, while the real owners of copyright get peanuts,” he said.

Dr Mutua said the lack of a structured revenue sharing formula that gives recognition to copyright owners “has long led to a situation where many artistes continue to be exploited and to languish in poverty while users of the artistic works declare huge profits each year.

“For music to be taken as a serious career, the rights of our talented artistes must take centre stage. The MCSK, therefore, welcomes the new law and commits to work with all stakeholders to ensure smooth and effective implementation,” he said.

The Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) welcomed the law after years of unacceptable conditions faced by artistes. KAMP CEO Mr Mbugua Njoroge said the law will finally allow musicians to get their fair remuneration for their works. However, he said creatives still have to be alert to ensure their hard-earned money is distributed in a clearly defined channel.

“We all know that a sizeable amount of money arises from the business of music. Previously it ended up with telecommunications companies and Internet Service Providers whose role was not clearly stipulated previously,” Njoroge said.

He encouraged the utilisation of Collective Management Organisations, as money channelled through them will go through proper distribution channels.

“Whatever extra money was being given to the telcos will now go to the musicians, and that is what the Copyright Amendment Bill has come to rectify.”

Njoroge said the role of Internet Service providers becomes blurry when they ‘forget’ that it is the artiste’s own intellectual property they use after artistes sign up with them.

“We welcome the law as it will state everyone’s role clearly and give musicians what belongs to them.”

For artistes, the move signals better times in a space where they were barely seeing the fruits of their labour.

Gengetone artiste Mejja said while it seems like a great thing so far, he looks forward to seeing the law being properly implemented.

“In Kenya, passing the bill isn’t the biggest issue. It is how well it will be implemented. But if my child will be able to earn money from my music one day, even after I am gone, then my hard work has served its purpose.”

The artiste said international stars, like those in Hollywood, have clearly defined revenue streams in form of royalties, “which see their legacies- and bank accounts live on.”

“If such laws were passed when E-sir was alive, perhaps his loved ones would be benefiting from his art to date.”

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