Women Leaders of Copyright in Kenya

As a newcomer on the intellectual property scene in Kenya, I’ve noticed one distinctive feature about the administration of copyright and related rights: it’s entirely dominated by women!

These women are not only legal professionals but they are also multi-talented and fully committed to what they do. Allow me to (re)introduce them to you and share my observations about them:

Marisella Ouma

She is currently the CEO/Executive Director of Kenya’s Copyright Office, Kenya Copyright Board (KeCoBo). She holds a Doctorate in Law from Queen Mary University of London, a Masters in Intellectual Property Law from Stockholm University and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Nairobi. She is also an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and has 15 years of legal practice under her belt.
The take-away experience for me was watching how she dealt angry musicians at a Music Stakeholders Forum in June 2011. The musicians at the Forum were extremely upset about the sorry state of affairs at the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) and blamed KeCoBo for failure to discharge its statutory mandate. Marisella was firm yet empathetic in her responses to the musicians and explained to them that all legal provisions available had been exhausted including revocation of MCSK’s license. Marisella continues to provide critical intellectual and professional leadership to the Copyright Office taking it from a small department under the Registrar-General’s Office to a fully fledged and active State Corporation.

Sharon Chahale

She is currently the General Manager of the Reproduction Rights Society of Kenya (KOPIKEN). She is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and has acquired a great deal of expertise dealing with reproduction rights management.
Meanwhile, Kopiken continues to face a lot of challenges in licensing and collections on behalf of their members. Under the law, all institutions, organizations and photocopy bureaus/copyshops engaged in commercial reproduction of published copyright protected works are required to take out licenses with Kopiken. Universities in particular have remained a thorn in Kopiken’s side as they refuse to take out licenses arguing that their reproduction of copyright works is covered under the exceptions and limitations set out in section 26(1)(h) of the Copyright Act.

Since her arrival at Kopiken, Sharon has successfully negotiated Kopiken’s first University license with Baraton University and is on the verge of concluding similar licensing agreements with the Kenya School of Law and Catholic University of East Africa. In a recent Workshop for Librarians and Archivists and Researchers drawn from Universities all over Kenya, Sharon was exceedingly convincing in getting the participants to appreciate the role of Kopiken in striking a balance the rights of creatives and the interests of users such as libraries, archives and research institutions.

June Gachui

She is currently the General Manager of the Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP). She holds law degrees from the George Washington University Law School and the London School of Economics. She is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and has worked in several capacities dealing with both national and international intellectual property laws.

Aside from her brilliant professional qualifications, June is also a well known artiste in Kenya’s music and theatre scenes. For a taste of her amazing vocal abilities, check her out in the ‘Kenya We Pray’ music video on YouTube.
June has found a unique way of combining her artistic, academic and business talents and she is an inspiration to young and upcoming IP enthusiasts in Kenya, including myself.

Angela Ndambuki

She is currently the General Manager of the Performers’ Rights Society of Kenya (PRSK). She received her Law Degrees from University of Nairobi and is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. In addition to her legal career, Angela has been and continues to be an artiste in her own right, having made her mark in the local music scene. Many will recall that she was a member of the hit all-girl singing group “Tattuu”. Angela is now a solo performing artist and goes by the stage name ‘Angie’. This month, Angela released her latest music video entitled “Nipe Nafasi”.

My unforgettable Angela moment came in April this year when she was actively advocating for the amendment of Section 30 of the Copyright Act which deals with performers rights. Using her well-rounded grasp of performers rights laws globally, she fervently pushed for the inclusion of provisions for equitable remuneration of performers in addition to express recognition of an organisation representative of performers. She tabled her proposed amendments to KeCoBo, who in turn forwarded them to the Attorney General’s Office for the formal process of legislative amendment to take place.

In sum, it’s safe to say that copyright administration is in safe hands with these women at its helm. They continue to be instrumental in the development of legislative and institutional frameworks for Copyright and Related Rights in Kenya. They deserve nothing less than our recognition and support in their endeavours.

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