For the past 2 days Creative Commons has had their first ever Regional Convening in Africa taking place in Entebbe, Uganda.
As we are all aware, Creative Commons (CC) Corporation stewards a set of standardised copyright licenses to provide simple, standardised alternatives to the “all rights reserved” paradigm of traditional copyright. In an earlier post, IPKenya has cited Creative Commons as a possible licensing option for creators posting their works online in Kenya.
With that said, IPKenya has chosen to focus on CC because CC requires a certain level of copyright consciousness within the environment it operates for CC to play its intended role. Therefore while Kenya works towards creating an environment where traditional copyright and CC can coexist and function side by side, most creators of copyright works, in the interim, will have only two choices: share with no restrictions or not share at all online. The reason for this is two fold: firstly, the current lack of a robust system for traditional copyright enforcement and administration and secondly the problem of attitudes and/or culture.
With regard to the first problem, it must be stated from the outset that KECOBO is working hard to implement and enforce the provisions of the Copyright Act. But Kenya still continues to suffer from a total lack of awareness of copyright among its people and poor government enforcement of copyright and related rights throughout the country. There are those Kenyans who do not understand what copyright is and what copyright licensing is about. Then there are those Kenyans who know something about copyright but simply choose to break copyright laws because they know that no enforcement agency will come after them. In such an environment where does one even begin to contemplate the success of CC?
With regard to the second problem, experience continues to show that the new copy-paste way of life among Kenyans leads many to misappropriate and misuse online copyright works regardless of whether the copyright owner’s site reads: “All Rights Reserved” or “Some Rights Reserved”. In fact in Kenya, plagiarism and copyright infringement are so rampant, creators of copyright works in Kenya have learnt the hard way to post materials online at their own risk. Therefore there is need to foster a new culture of respect for intellectual property and in particular an appreciation of the economic and moral rights belonging to copyright owners.
The challenge is therefore to create an environment where traditional copyright and CC can work hand in hand. As long as copyright infringement in Kenya continues to go unreported and unpunished, the general public will continue to misappropriate and misuse the copyright works of others even more so in the digital environment.
Here are a few thoughts:
1. Digital content creators must find ways of coming up with technological protection measures that reduce copying of their work. The production and dissemination of these TPMs to copyright owners could then be subsidised by the Government.
2. KECOBO must strengthen its arbitration/mediation role so as to deal with rising cases of online piracy, plagiarism and copyright infringement and set out deterrent measures including stiff fines and other penalties for infringers.
3. Digital content creators and KECOBO must agree on a system of reporting copyright infringement in a manner that allows KECOBO to effectively play the role of arbiter and balance the interests of both the copyright holders and the copyright users.
4. The mandate of the newly established Competent Authority under the Copyright Act must be expanded to allow it to hear matters relating to copyright ownership disputes.
Last but not least
5. KECOBO must continue and intensify its efforts to create awareness and educate members of the public on basic copyright rules and principles. Digital content creators must assist KECOBO in this endeavour by forming groups that promote the dissemination of information and advice on copyright and related rights.
IPKenya argues that Kenya as a knowledge economy must reach a certain optimal level in terms of its use of the traditional copyright system before Creative Commons can truly begin to flourish among all copyright creators and users beyond just librarians, archivists, curators and governments.