Viusasa Set to Stop Collecting Artists' Money

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday, January 14, announced a new structure set to facilitate payments of royalties for rights-holders in the country that will see platforms such as Skiza and Viusasa cease to collect and distribute royalty payments directly to artists.

President Kenyatta, in a press conference, stated that content rights-holders, many of them artists, will be expected to register on a new, centralized National Rights Registry. All royalties payments will also be channeled to a central account at the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO).

At the moment, collective management organizations (CMOs) such as the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) and Performers' Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) are licensed to collect royalties on rights-holders' behalf and distribute them to the members.

President Uhuru Kenyatta gestures while delivering a past address

Uhuru announced that the new structure was expected to see royalty payments for musicians, in particular, rise from the current Ksh200 million a year to Ksh2 billion a year.

"My practical direction on this is to have all rights-holders register on a National Rights Registry. To receive royalties, content service providers will be required to channel all payments of royalties through a single centrally-managed account at the Kenya Copyright Board.

"This will enable oversight by the regulator and ensure the collection and distribution accounts are easily audited," Uhuru explained while addressing the nation from State House, Mombasa.

He went on to disclose that the Ministry of Information Communication Technology (ICT) had already come up with new tariffs that will be implemented in 2020.

"KECOBO and the Ministry of ICT have already agreed on new tariffs for 2020. These tariffs are to be gazetted and will form the basis on which compliance will be monitored," Uhuru noted.

The president directed that the ICT ministry, in consultation with the attorney general's office, ensure that the new structure is gazetted within 30 days.

The proposed system also seeks to make it easier for artists to access distribution platforms such as Skiza and Viusasa. Regulations that require such platforms to work with licensed content service providers to acquire rights-holders' content are to be reviewed for this reason.

"Further I direct the ministry to remove conditions requiring digital platforms to only work through licensed content providers. This will enable musicians to work directly with platforms such as Skiza," he stated.

In addition, Uhuru directed other ministries, including Transport and Tourism, to ensure that all public service vehicles (PSVs), hotels, retailers and other businesses were in compliance with the new tariffs to be factored in the issuance of licences.

President Uhuru Kenyatta dances with FBI Crew at State House, Nairobi on February 8, 2017