A Tale of Two Danish Bio-Tech Firms, Protection of Genetic Resources and 2.3 Million Shillings in Royalties for Lake Bogoria Enzyme

Lake Bogoria Bio-Enzyme Royalties Kenya Baringo County 2014

The Baringo County has confirmed recent media reports that residents living around Lake Bogoria in Baringo County have received the sum of KES 2.3 Million in royalties from a Dutch bio-enzyme company. According to Baringo County news, this royalties deal comes after “successful negotiation between the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Novozyme – a foreign company that took an enzyme drawn from a Bacteria in Lake Bogoria hot springs about 15 years ago”. It is reported that the royalties will be partly used as bursaries for over 200 local students while part of the funds will be deployed to fund other development projects in the area. However, local civil society organisations have reportedly demanded full disclosure of all the money from the royalties deal.

This blogpost uses the recent news from Baringo County to examine the protection of genetic resources in Kenya, taking into account Kenya’s new domestic and international rights and obligations in this area.

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The 2014 Kenya Heroes Act and Recognition of Intellectual Property Contributions

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“Our children may learn about the heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves the architects of the future,” – Jomo Kenyatta, following the declaration of a state of emergency by the British colonialists on October 20, 1952.

Article 9 of the Constitution states that ‘Mashujaa Day’ (Heroes Day) is to be observed on the 20th October of every year as a national day which makes it a public holiday in Kenya. This fifth Mashujaa Day is particularly important since it is the first one since the assent of the Kenya Heroes Act No. 5 of 2014. The Minister responsible for the Heroes’ Act, the Sports, Culture and Arts Cabinet Secretary Dr. Hassan Wario told the media that an interim committee is currently working to put in place structures before the National Heroes Council is fully constituted under the Act.

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Lessons from Nigeria’s Linda Ikeji on Plagiarism, Copyright and DMCA Abuse

Linda Ikeji Blog screenshot

The Linda Ikeji Blog (LIB) commands a great deal of readership and influence in Nigeria with an average of 100 comments per blogpost and over 425,000 followers on twitter. Earlier this month, it was reported that LIB was taken down from the Google-owned “Blogger” platform and later restored by Google. Linda Ikeji disclosed that LIB was taken down following allegations of plagiarism and copyright infringement, presumably under the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). However Google has declined to categorically state why the blog was taken down but generally explained that: “We [Google] take violations of policies very seriously as such activities diminish the experience for our users. When we are notified of the existence of content that may violate our Terms of Service, we act quickly to review it and determine whether it actually violates our policies. If we determine that it does, we remove it immediately.”

This blogpost considers LIB’s recent experience from an intellectual property (IP) perspective and concludes that this case should be an eye-opener to bloggers, especially in Kenya.

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4.7 Trillion Shillings Later and Copyright Law Still Lagging Behind

This month, Kenya made news when it joined Africa’s top 10 economies after rebasing of its gross domestic product (GDP). Kenya is now officially classified as a middle-income country after a statistical reassessment of its economy increased the size by 25.3 per cent. Kenya’s economic output was calculated to be 4.76 trillion shillings ($53.4 billion) in 2013 after the rebasing, up from 3.8 trillion shillings ($42.6 billion). This takes Kenya up to ninth in Africa’s GDP rankings from 12th, above Ghana, Tunisia and Ethiopia but below oil-producing Sudan based on a World Bank table for 2013. Kenya became the latest African country to benefit from rebasing its economy after Nigeria overtook South Africa to became the continent’s biggest economy earlier this year.

This blogpost takes a moment to consider how copyright law amendments could play a crucial role in increasing the contribution of copyright-based industries to Kenya’s GDP. In particular, this blogpost considers three main areas namely, provisions on online and digital infringement of copyright as well as collective administration of copyright.

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Regulation of Online Video Content, Territoriality and Copyright

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This month South Africa’s top comedian Trevor Noah announced that he will be joining the award-winning late-night satirical news show, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” aired on US cable network, Comedy Central (CC). For those who would want to enjoy this Emmy and Peabody Award-winning television show on demand, there is always “Hulu”, a leading online video service. However for those accessing Hulu outside the US, you are likely to receive the following notice: “We’re sorry, currently our video library can only be streamed within the United States. For more information on Hulu’s international availability, click here.”

A similar service to Hulu called Netflix has been the subject of conversation in South Africa in a recent article here by TechCentral South Africa titled: “DStv wont sue Netflix users” then later changed to “DStv to launch Catch Up Plus”. The relevant portion of the article reads: “[DStv Digital Media CEO John] Kotsaftis says it’s not clear if it’s legal or not for South Africans to watch Netflix and similar services. What is clear, he says, is that these companies are breaking the law when they allow access to services to consumers in markets for which they haven’t purchased content distribution rights.” In this regard, many Kenyans may ask: “when you purchase a US virtual private network (VPN) to by-pass Netflix or Hulu region locks to watch shows and movies that are supposed to only be available to Americans, is that copyright infringement?” This blogpost explains why this question must be answered in the affirmative.

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Applications Open for Google Policy Fellowship 2014 at Strathmore Law’s CIPIT

google policy fellowship

CIPIT has been selected (for the second year running) to host a Google Policy Fellow. The list of host institutions is quite a who’s-who of tech research institutes. In Sub-Saharan Africa, CIPIT is Kenya’s only host organisation with other hosts in South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana.

This first Google Policy Fellow to be hosted at CIPIT in 2013 was Mr. Rene Eno-Akpa, a student in Department of Public Policy at the Central European University whose research aimed at “helping rural and less fortunate Africans access copyright-protected materials and thus build a capacity for a better life”.

For more information, please see here.