High Court Judgment on Caller Ringback Tones, Definition of Public Performance and Regulation of Collecting Societies

IMG-20151023-WA0023 edaily dot co dot ke

Previously we reported here that several members of Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) had filed a case in the Commercial Division of the High Court challenging a license pertaining to the caller ringback tones (CRBT) service known as “Skiza Tunes” owned by mobile network operator, Safaricom issued by the three music collective management organisations (CMOs) including MCSK.

While the outcome of this commercial suit is still pending, we have come across a recently delivered judgment in the case of Petition No. 350 of 2015 David Kasika & 4 Ors v. Music Copyright Society of Kenya in which several MCSK members alleged that the collection of royalties by MCSK under the CRBT license agreement in question violates their constitutional rights, that the making available of works for download on Safaricom’s CRBT service amounts to a private performance as such section 30A of the Copyright Act does not apply and thus the CMOs cannot collect royalties on behalf of its members as required under the section. Finally, the petition invited the court to weigh in on several damning allegations made regarding mismanagement by MCSK in its collection and distribution of members’ royalties.

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Kenya Copyright Board Suggests Guernsey Approach to Image Rights Protection

Kenya Copyright Board Publication Copyright News Issue 18 2015 Cover

The most recent edition of Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) newsletter (cover pictured above) focuses on photography and image rights. A copy of the full Issue 18 is available here.

In the lead article starting on page 4 by KECOBO Executive Director, a compelling case is made in favour of specific legal protection of image rights, particularly in the case of celebrities. The article uses the oft-cited case of Dennis Oliech v. EABL (previously discussed here) to illustrate the limitations of existing intellectual property (IP) regimes in cases of commercial appropriation of one’s personality and/or image.

The article reads in part as follows:

“The use of images and personality rights is gaining currency and there is need to ensure that the same is well regulated and third parties do not take undue advantage of the commercialisation of the same. Guernsey provides a good example and maybe we should follow suit.”

This view from the Copyright Office begs the question: will Kenya be better off with a specific law on image rights like Guernsey? This blogger argues that the answer must be “No”.

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Ontario Appeal Filed in ‘Peeling Back The Mask’ Copyright Case: Miguna v. Walmart Canada et al.

In an earlier post (here), we discussed the story of Miguna Miguna, a Kenyan Canadian who penned an explosive political memoir in 2012, “Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya”, based on his experiences as close adviser to former Prime Minister of Kenya, Raila Odinga, before the pair publicly fell out. As many readers may know, Miguna, a qualified lawyer in both Ontario and Kenya, took the retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to court in Canada after learning it was offering his book for sale on walmart.com. He also sued Consortium Book Sales and Distribution LLC, a company identified on walmart.com as the publisher of the book.

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Demystifying the Role of Copyright as a Tool for Economic Development in Africa: Tackling the Harsh Effects of the Transferability Principle in Copyright Law

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“It is…submitted that the system of alienable copyright is not conducive for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and cannot, unless the legislatures of these countries intervene, ever give rise to a sustainable, home-bred and poverty alleviating industry.” – JJ Baloyi, 2014.

This blogger has recently come across a compelling article titled “Demystifying the Role of Copyright as a Tool for Economic Development in Africa: Tackling the Harsh Effects of the Transferability Principle in Copyright Law” written by JJ Baloyi in the South African Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal. A copy of the article is available here. The central argument in Baloyi’s article is that the transferability principle in copyright law has had the inadvertent effect of stifling copyright-based entrepreneurship, and thus economic development in Sub-Saharan African countries that inherited copyright laws from their erstwhile colonial masters, England or France.

This blogpost discusses Baloyi’s well-written article and examines its implications for Kenya especially in light of the possible solutions put forward to tackle the ‘harsh effects’ of the system of assignment under copyright within Africa.

Baloyi’s article asks the question why many Sub-Saharan African countries, though having copyright and related rights laws and though generally endowed with rich cultural resources, have not been able to realise significant economic development and growth from the economic exploitation of intellectual property (IP) works and legally-protectable expressions emanating from such resources. Baloyi, former General Counsel at SAMRO, attempts to answer this question with a focus on the music industry where he draws most of his insights, observations and experience.

The article submits that there are several sets of barriers hindering musical entrepreneurship in Africa including psychological barriers, barriers in relation to the business environment, barriers relating to external ability and barriers in relation to the influence of demographics.

On psychological barriers, the article starts by appreciating the stress and hard work involved in giving us great musical pieces that we, as society, have become accustomed to. In this regard, the copyright regime demands that musicians exert themselves through their skill, time and judgment in order to create works that are original originating from their own efforts rather than slavish copies of works produced by the efforts of others. Therefore the article submits that expecting musical artists to be entrepreneurs in addition to being creators, is requiring more than the ordinary from them! Nonetheless these creators should be encouraged to be entrepreneurs even though it is accepted that not all artists will be entrepreneurs, just as not all lawyers can be entrepreneurs, for instance! Therefore artists who surround themselves with good advisors, would only need to display an entrepreneurial mind-set and leave the entrepreneurial activities to others.

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Still on psychological matters, the article argues that the possession of IP within an environment where there is a strong IP protection regime is a strong determinant of entrepreneurial growth aspirations. Therefore, ownership of copyright in such an environment should be a strong motivation for artists to be involved in entrepreneurial activities.

Regarding barriers in relation to the business environment, the article observes that the lack of social networks becomes crucial in two instances, firstly collaborations where an artist seeks to jointly author a musical work with artists endowed with different skills and secondly marketing where an artist decides to market his own musical works.

The article gives primary focus to the lack of resources which it maintains is the main difficulty experienced by artists in Africa in respect of securing funding for their music entrepreneurial endeavours. In this regard, the article observes that most authors of musical works find themselves with no option but to assign i.e. transfer ownership in, their copyright to music publishers under terms that are highly unfavourable to the authors. It follows that once these authors have accumulated enough savings over time (due to the barriers relating to demographics) to incorporate and market their own publishing and recording companies, they find it difficult to engage in entrepreneurial activities relating to their copyrights as these rights have long been assigned to others. This so-called “endless cycle” is the main problem Baloyi seeks to address through his article.

Therefore the article argues that the artists’ lack of resources necessary to engage in entrepreneurial activities vis-a-vis their copyright works denies them the enjoyment of the rent-creation benefits under copyright licensing whereby the copyright owner may grant either an exclusive or a non-exclusive license to a user, in exchange for payment or compensation. Therefore these licenses would be able to earn the artists (and their heirs in title) income in the nature of rents (i.e. royalties) for the duration of the copyright.

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In light of the above, the article argues that Sub-Saharan African countries should develop its copyright laws to address concerns relating to the internal conditions and developmental needs of their countries. This article points out the examples of United States, Canada, the European Union and India which have moulded their copyright laws in light of their unique prevailing circumstances to produce home-grown solutions. In this regard, the article submits that beyond the minimum standards required in Berne and TRIPs, African nations can craft provisions that would safeguard the interests of their creators while not offending their international obligations.

The article is categorical that the dualist systems in common and civil law traditions of African countries result in the “endless cycle” where authors cannot exploit their copyright works as explained above. In this regard, the article refers favourably to the German system of author’s rights (a monist system) where the economic rights are seen as being interwoven with the moral rights and thus cannot be separated out, making them incapable of being assigned. The article argues that the monist concept of authors’ rights is consistent with the human rights approach to intellectual property rights espoused in South Africa and other Sub-Saharan African countries.

The legislative and policy solutions put forward in the article include, the use of reversionary provisions in copyright legislations, structuring music business contracts to safeguard the interests of artists and strengthening the role of collective management organisations (CMOs). In conclusion, Baloyi appeals to the legislatures in Sub-Saharan Africa to take advantage of the evolutionary nature of copyright and its changing paradigm internationally:-

“Rather than holding to the tenets of a system that has so far failed their countries, it would be responsible for the legislators of these countries to start thinking of those elements in other copyright systems that they can incorporate into their laws to unshackle their authors from the harsh effects of the transferability rule.”

Intellectual Property and Tax Law: Bata Shoe Company Kenya v. Kenya Revenue Authority

Picture1 Bata Kenya Blog

Recently, the High Court delivered an interesting judgment regarding the chargeability of intellectual property (IP) royalties and license fees for purposes of customs duty valuation. In the case of Republic v Kenya Revenue Authority Exparte Bata Shoe Company (Kenya) Limited [2014] eKLR the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) issued a partial demand notice to Bata Kenya requiring the latter to make a total payment of KES 90,489,947.00 to The Commissioner of Customs Services within 30 (thirty) days from November 24, 2010. Despite several exchanges, KRA and Bata Kenya were unable to agree on the total amount of taxes owed by the latter. Bata Kenya then moved to court under judicial review proceedings seeking for KRA’s notice to be quashed on the grounds that distribution royalties are not subject to customs duty as they are not royalties related to the goods being valued that the buyer must pay, either directly or indirectly, as a condition of the sale of the goods being valued within the meaning of Rule 9(i)(c) of the Fourth Schedule to the East African Community Customs Management Act, 2004 (EACCMA).

Bata Kenya owes its entire existence to two separate agreements namely, a Trade Mark License Agreement (TLA) with Bata Brands and an Agreement on commission/service charge with China Footwear Services Limited (CFS) and Bata Shoe (Singapore) Pte Ltd (BSS). An overview of the TLA entered on 1st January, 2006 between Bata Brands (as the licensor) and Bata Kenya (as the licensee) states that the latter is allowed to use the ‘BATA’ trademark for all its business activities in Kenya (known as the Territory). In return, Bata Kenya is required to pay 2% of the total annual sales “after all withholding and other taxes, levies or dues of all kinds imposed by any authority in the Territory”.
In clause 10 of the agreement, one of the conditions for early termination of the TLA is non-payment of the royalty. As per clause 11 the effect of termination would mean that Bata Kenya would cease trading in products with the trademark ‘BATA’.

Read the full article here.

A Kenyan Perspective of South Africa’s Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property

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As many IP enthusiasts may have heard, South Africa has recently published a Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property (IP) (hereafter the Policy). Within the Kenyan context, this blogger has previously questioned the need for a national IP policy particularly in light of the recognition given to IP in the Constitution. However, for the purposes of this post, the policy provides a good basis for a comparative analysis of the state of IP in both South Africa and Kenya as well as possible recommendations to strengthen IP laws.

In the area of patents, Kenya’s IP office undertakes both formal and substantive examinations of patent applications whereas in South Africa, the Policy recommends the establishment of a substantive of a substantive search and examination of patents to address issue of “weak” vs “strong” patents. The policy’s recommendation to amend South African patent law to include pre-and post-opposition would also be instructive to Kenya.

Read the rest of this article here.