Nairobi High Court Revokes Licenses of Three Kenyan Music Copyright Organizations

Nairobi — In a landmark ruling, the High Court in Nairobi invalidated the operational licenses of the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP), and Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK).

According to Kenya News Agency, the Chairman of the Music Associations Alliance of Kenya, the licenses had been unlawfully issued by the Kenya Copyright Board’s (KECOBO) Executive Director without the oversight of a legally constituted board, a situation exacerbated by alleged parliamentary interference with KECOBO’s operations.

Lady Justice Hedwig Imbosa Ong’udi of the Milimani Law Courts, in her verdict delivered in October following a petition dated May 17, 2023, ordered the quashing of the certificates of renewal of registration for Collective Management Organizations issued on May 5, 2023, unless they were granted by KECOBO’s Board of Directors.

Justice Ong’udi imposed a prohibition order on KECOBO, preventing it from processing or issuing any new certificates of renewal for Collective Management Organizations without a decision made by a legally constituted board. The ruling further stipulated that KECOBO cannot issue provisional, interim, or partial licenses and placed a permanent injunction against the organization from issuing any certificates of renewal until a lawful board is appointed in accordance with the Copyright Act.

The costs of the suit, as ruled by Justice Ong’udi, are to be shared, with the first respondent responsible for half and the second and third interested parties to shoulder the remainder.

This decision brings significant relief to musicians and other stakeholders in the Kenyan music industry, as MCSK, KAMP, and PRISK have been barred from licensing or collecting royalties for the public use of music. The court’s judgment is anticipated to have sweeping implications for the governance of music rights and the broader copyright management landscape in Kenya.

Ngemu welcomed the ruling, praising the court for its adherence to the rule of law and the positive impact this would have on the music industry.

The outcome underscores the crucial nature of legal conformity and procedural integrity in the management of collective music rights.