Kenya: MPs, Companies Face Fines Over 'Jerusalema' Videos

Members of Parliament took time off from their legislative duties to do a jig as they dance to the viral Jerusalema dance challenge at parliament buildings on October 14, 2020.
23 February 2021

Members of Parliament, businesses and corporations in Kenya and across the region will soon be forced to part with thousands of shillings as fine over the Jerusalema Challenge dance challenge.

Music record company, Warner music - with which Master KG is under contract - on Monday said it will demand license fees for the use of the song in the videos.

The corporation, in a statement to German news outlet Deutsche Welle, said it will be demanding the fees from any organization or institution that used the music, either "as an advertising or image-promoting effect in favor of an institution, organization or company".

DW, in its publication said a spokesperson from Warner Germany said participants in the challenge, ought to have sought permission from the producers, in the form of a license, before dancing to the music.

This means that institutions like Parliament and other private organisations and government institutions that took part in the challenge, either as part of their public relations or corporate social responsibility initiatives will be liable to the fines.

And while Warner music is yet to disclose the amounts it will charge on the said institutions, it however said that the fines will not be imposed on individuals who took part in the challenge.

Besides MPs who danced to the video last year just like the rest of Kenyans, a number of government institutions, county governments like Nairobi and Mombasa as well as parastatals and private organisations also took part in the challenge.

Football clubs like Gor Mahia, also took to the challenge which incorporated ODM leader Raila Odinga, generating an increased interest online. Then there were others like the Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Ferry Service, Huduma Centre, AA Kenya, Naivas Supermarket, Agility Kenya and many others.

The Jerusalema soundtrack is a creation of South African musician and record producer Master KG, and Nomcebo Zikode.

The song, produced and released in 2019, provided the much needed solace for many during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, resulting into several dance challenges online, that pushed its viewership up by millions.

By the end of last year, the soundtrack had been streamed at least 60 million times on music app Spotify, illustrating the huge popularity it had garnered during the pandemic.

In Germany, where many of those working as essential workers in the police, nursing and other departments took part in the challenge, the Ministry of Interior of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia said it had settled the claims for the participating police departments in the state.

And should the company go ahead with imposing the fines, many, including institutions in the country, could be forced to part with the large sums in the form of fines, for infringing on the rights of the producer, a move that has already elicited sharp reactions online.

Open letters written to Warner online, accused the company of filling its pockets from the viral challenge and its good intentions, all with the aim of neutralizing the positive vibe it had created.

Some lawyers also questioned the morality of the move. While some argued that the music company had the right to protect its copyright and that of its artists, others said the timing of the move was suspect.

Others said the company ought to have warned users to first delete the videos before imposing the fines, even as music activists pointed to the low earnings generated by musicians as a result of the pandemic that ate into live performances, concerts and royalties.

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