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Mugithi Stars in Trouble as Copyright Wars Escalate



Mugithi Stars in Trouble as Copyright Wars Escalate

Revelers enjoy Mugithi at Carnivore Restaurant, Nairobi at a past event. [Photo/ James Mwangi/ Standard]

Artists releasing their monetized cover versions of older songs without the authority of the original composers and authors face legal action, and are liable to fork out damages, the Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo) has asserted.

The regulator was wading into the raging copyright wars rocking vernacular music in Kenya, particularly the Agikuyu music Mugithi genre. In a statement issued on February 1, KECOBO noted that it had received numerous complaints relating to ever green Gospel, Kikuyu and Kalenjin music releases.

In recent months, a battle has been simmering in Mugithi and debates raging, as older artists demand their fair share of compensation for the numerous Mugithi hits today that are essentially cover versions of much older songs.

“The complaints received at the Kenya Copyright Board office involve the re-recording of pre-existing sound recording, public performance of the recording, and the release of the work mostly online in the name of other artists with no acknowledgement and authority of the original work or its authors,” KECOBO confirmed.

“The resultant work or recording is considered a cover version. A cover version of music is a remake or a new performance or recording by someone other than the original artist or composer of a previously recorded sound recording,” the body explained.

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Older artists have found themselves on the losing end as artists today release and perform covers of their compositions without securing their approval or agreeing on compensation. KECOBO advised artists to ensure they seal agreements with the original rightsholders, on paper, before monetizing and distributing cover versions of their songs.

“To monetize and publicly distribute a cover song, the covering artist must obtain a license (for the sound recording) allowing him to utilize the original musical work (melody), from the original artist.”

“Anyone who creates a cover version of an existing musical work without the author’s express authorization infringes on the copyright and producer related right.”

KECOBO cautioned artists who infringed on copyrights that they may be charged under section 38(1)a of the Copyright Act for the offence of making for sale or for hire an infringing copy. In addition, an infringer would be liable for damages if sued.

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