At a jazz workshop held at the Michael Joseph Centre, Safaricom got the chance to address the reason behind the myriad of copyright infringement lawsuits flung at them due to its ring back tune service, Skiza Tunes.
Director of Corporate Affairs at Safaricom, Steve Chege, described the platform as the largest of its kind nationally, providing artists with an outlet to showcase their talent and earn from it.
Despite its success, Skiza Tunes is often bogged down by legal suits which usually eat into most of the profits made by the service.
He blamed this on the lack of a right holders’ registry that would outline the legal rights owners to music which will make it easier to ask for permission to put the artist’s music on their platform. This adversely inhibits growth of the local music industry as every time there is a court injunction for Safaricom to stop playing a particular song on Skiza Tunes, payments to other artists on the platform ceases while the lawsuit is pending awaiting a ruling, therefore, crippling artists’ income sources which, to most of them is their primary source of livelihood.
He further explained that Skiza Tunes does not work directly with the artists. Rather, it forms contracts with Content Service Providers (CSP) who are licensed by Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) to be distributers of music to end users. Sometimes, the CSPs may end up being unprofessional and even when the money made from the sale of an artist’s song on Skiza Tunes is paid out to the CSPs, it rarely reaches the artist.
Ignorance about copyright laws and proper legal documentation by the musical artist’s when entering into contracts with CSPs and record labels plays a major role in why the artists are fleeced from time to time. To mitigate this problem, the company frequently holds workshops with artists to educate them on their rights and understanding the documentation required before entering into any contract regarding assigning their rights or choosing not to assign them.
He went on to advise that it’s is important for the artists to know how often their song is downloaded and what share the pie they are entitled to from the sales of the music so as to avoid their exploitation.
On the future of Skiza Tunes, Mr. Chege said in the near future there are plans to have Skiza Tunes include a steaming service where artists are paid per play, diversifying their source of income so that they are not fully reliant on ticket sales at musical shows. He also touched on forming a portal where short film makers can upload their work movies and make them available for download for a fee.
As he ended the session, Mr Chege emphasised that Safaricom was committed to engaging genuinely with local artists and enriching them in all aspects. He also urged the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) to streamline its copyright right laws and provide an enabling environment for the growth of not only the local music industry but the creative arts industry as well.