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Safaricom CEO in out-of-court deal over copyright row

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore. The firm has been sued by musician JB Maina for allegedly using 10 of his songs as ringtones without his knowledge. FILE
Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore. The firm has been sued by musician JB Maina for allegedly using 10 of his songs as ringtones without his knowledge. FILE  Nation Media Group

Safaricom has started an out-of-court settlement with a musician over a copyright row that has seen its CEO Bob Collymore face contempt charges.

The High Court on Thursday heard from the lawyer of John Boniface Maina popularly known as JB Maina that talks are on to settle the rights row out of court.

The musician sued Safaricom for allegedly using 10 of his songs as ringtones through its “Skiza” tunes and “Surf 2 Win Promotion” without his knowledge—a charge the mobile telecommunication firm has denied.

“There is ongoing discussion between plaintiff and defendant to settle the matter and we seek the matter to be mentioned in 10 days,” the musician’s lawyer, David Gikunda, told the High Court on Thursday. “We are quite certain that the matter will be settled.”

This will be the second attempt Safaricom and Mr Maina will be seeking to settle the copyright infringement dispute out of court.

“Let the matter be mentioned on December 10, 2013 at 9 am to record a settlement before any available judge in the division,” Justice George Kimondo ordered.

The musician is demanding Sh5 million in damages in addition to any money due after accounting for the alleged illegal sale of his songs through promotions.

He was also in court to push for the prosecution of Mr Collymore and three other executives for allegedly disobeying court orders issued in May. 

The three executives are Alex Mwenga, CEO of Interactive Media Services; Sydney Wachira (head of Liberty Afrika); and Maurice Okoth, the chief executive of MCSK.

The High Court in May restrained Safaricom from storing and selling Mr Maina’s Kikuyu songs and directed the mobile company to grant the musician access to its head office for him make to copies of all the purchases and sales records of his songs.

But Mr Maina says Safaricom did not comply with the court orders, prompting the contempt of court suit.

Safaricom has always denied the copyright charges, 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).

The firm maintains that payments linked to the download of Mr Maina’s music were made to Liberty Afrika as per the content provision agreement.

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