Pay up or not?MCSK to demand tax fees from online entertainers

Kenyan youth running various businesses via digital platforms could soon be forced to shut down operations if pronouncements by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) are validated. With most people unable to go out due to the curfew imposed by the government, the majority have turned to social media for entertainment.

Kenyan Dj

In a notice published on Saturday, April 25, the revenue authorities stated that those trading on digital platforms were failing to remit Value Added Tax (VAT), vowing to take action as soon as possible.

On Tuesday, May 26, the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) asserted that deejays conducting live streams on social media were considered radio stations, and would have to part with fees to acquire relevant licenses either from the copyright owners or Collective Management Organizations (CMOS) to continue with their live streams.

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The Kenya Copyright Board now says that disc-jockeys who are live-streaming on social media require a special broadcast license. This will be an unfortunate turn of events since the majority of entertainers use the income earned via live streaming to cushion themselves amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many Kenyan  DJs have sprung up to keep those staying at home dancing and entertained with their live streams of mixes hosted on various social media platforms most especially Instagram live and YouTube.

Kecobo on Wednesday said that anyone who violates the exclusive rights of the copyright owner is an infringer of that copyright.Disk Jockers who have been entertaining Kenyans with various cocktails of live mixes on social media are also being targeted.

Anyone who violates the exclusive rights of the copyright owner is an infringer of that copyright. When a DJ creates a live stream and starts broadcasting music to the Internet, he has become a radio station. He needs licenses from copyright owners or CMO.The authors of these works too need to get something to cope with the tough times. By seeking permission, both the authors and DJs can share the benefits equitably,” the agency warned  on Tuesday,May 26.

Most of the DJs undertaking live mixes have provided mobile money accounts and other payment options for listeners to tip them, raising the question of whether these mixes are meant for profit or purely entertainment.

The announcement by KECOBO sparked online arguments but was supported by several artists who argued that it was vital to ensure musicians also earn from the use of their work in live streaming.

A portion of the popular DJs who stream their music every week include DJ Joe Mfalme who has a show dubbed Club Quarantine, DJ Kym Nickdee Curfew Party, DJ Moh Cool Runnings, and DJ Crème Pyjama Party, among many others.

The majority of them, if not all, while streaming live-streams their live mixes, will have a pinned M-Pesa number for contributions from their fans during the performance. The DJ’s usually request a token of appreciation from their fans through various money transfer options like PayPal and M-Pesa.

This automatically eliminates the content from the protection of fair use as the content becomes commercialized and ceases to be for “non-profit”.

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Kecobo did not specify if they will take any legal action against those who are breaking the law by streaming live other people’s content or talent. Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) Chairman Japheth Kasanga  also noted that the tariffs had recently been lowered, urging disk jockeys to pay the license fees.

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