Safaricom sued over music copyright
Posted Saturday, June 9 2012 at 18:06
A judge has directed Criminal Investigations Department officers and a copyright inspector to accompany a musician to Safaricom’s headquarters in Nairobi to conduct an inventory of his songs whose copyright he claims the mobile firm has infringed upon.
John Boniface Maina, popularly known as JB Maina, sued the telecoms operator for allegedly using 10 of his songs as ringtones through its “Skiza” and “Surf 2 Win Promotion”.
Safaricom, through the firm of Ochieng’, Onyango, Kibet and Ohaga Advocates, has denied the allegations, saying it signed a Content Provision Agreement with Interactive Media Services and Liberty Afrika Technologies, which are licensed by the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK).
Commercial Court judge Joseph Mutava on Wednesday ruled that the musician should be given access to Safaricom’s head office to make copies of all the purchases and sales records of his songs.
The musician, through lawyer David Miriti, claimed that since 2009, Safaricom has been charging customers Sh5 for every ringtone the subscribers downloaded to their mobile phones.
He argues the mobile services provider has to date sold over Sh60 million on account of his infringed copyright without compensating him.
Mr Maina is claiming Sh5 million in damages in addition to any amounts due after accounting for the alleged illegal sale of his songs through promotions.
Mr Maina is accusing Safaricom of infringing the copyright on his top song titles Muiritu Wa Kabete, Tiga Kumute, Mundia Tawa and Tuhua Twa Rose and offering for them for a fee through “Surf 2 Win Promotion” and “Skiza” tunes.
Safaricom is further accused of engaging in piracy by reproducing, modifying, mutilating and offering the songs for sale through downloading and subscribing after entering a code via mobile phone and internet.
And by using the songs as the soundtrack, Mr Maina argues the company made animations of his music and benefited through his works without his authority or consent.
“I firmly believe there is an intention by Safaricom and third parties to defraud me by denying me revenue from my intellectual property,” said Mr Maina in a sworn affidavit.
Safaricom defended itself, saying all payments related to the download of Mr Maina’s music were made to LibertyAfrika as per the content provision agreement.
“We included Mr Maina’s music in various promotions under the presumption that all approvals had been obtained from the copyright holder,” said Safaricom.
MCSK has denied entering into an agreement with Interactive Media, but admitted having a signed written content provision agreement with Liberty Afrika in 2009 assigning Safaricom its rights, licenses and sub-licenses to various musical works.