Endless wrangles in Kenya’s collective management system have made us all experts in copyright law. The thorny question of how and to what extent key players in the collective administration of copyright and related rights must comply with the Constitution remains a hotly debated topic. This brings us to a recent judgment by the High Court in the case of Laban Toto Juma & 4 Others v. Kenya Copyright Board & 2 Others Consolidated Kakamega Petition No. 3B of 2017 delivered on 13 July 2018. A copy of this High Court judgment is available here. Not surprisingly, both sides in this see-saw legal battle are claiming victory following the court’s final verdict. So, this blogpost will attempt to examine the key issues tackled by the court in its judgment as well as some of the questions that have been left unanswered.
In 2008, Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) was birthed as Kenya’s TRIPS-plus experiment to spearhead intellectual property (IP) rights enforcement by coordinating efforts among various state agencies. In our humble opinion, ACA deserves no score higher than 3/10 for its performance in fulfilling its overall statutory mandate in Kenya.
It was envisioned that ACA would be a shining example of an inter-agency approach to IP rights enforcement with private sector coordination. Ten years later, it is safe to say that ACA has failed to live up to its potential. The reason? Two words: Institutional Corruption.
Question: What do the proposed amendments to the Copyright Act in 2017 and 2018 both have in common? Here’s a hint, it has to do with Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO). In 2017, the Copyright Amendment Bill proposed changes to the functions of the Board, composition of the Board and qualifications of the Executive Director whereas the recently tabled 2018 Bill proposes specific changes to KECOBO Board Membership. Arising from these two sets of proposals less than a year apart, there appears to be a growing call for the repeal or overhaul of the Copyright Act with specific concerns being raised about KECOBO’s Board structure, functions and role within the copyright and related rights system.
The raison d’etre of the collective administration or collective management system in copyright law is to bridge the gap between rights holders and users of copyright works. So, what happens when collecting societies, or as they are commonly called collective management organisations (CMOs), fail to carry out this core function and instead become poster children for corruption, mismanagement, lack of transparency, and abuse of power?
Back in 2013, Jonathan Band and Brandon Butler published an insightful article titled ‘Some Cautionary Tales About Collective Licensing’ which exposed the dark side of CMOs around the world. This blogger was pleased that some of our work in the context of CMOs in Kenya was featured in the article, specifically the on-going wrangles between Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) and literally everyone else including the copyright regulator, copyright owners, copyright users and even other Kenyan CMOs in the music industry.
This blogger has come across a recent High Court judgment in the case of Republic v Attorney General & 2 others Ex parte Tom Odoyo Oloo  eKLR in which the appointment of the chairman of Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) was challenged for being unconstitutional. In the earlier case of Republic v. Attorney General & 3 Others Ex-Parte Tom Odoyo Oloo  eKLR discussed on this blog here, the High Court struck down the appointment of Polycarp Igathe as ACA Chairman and less than one week later on 24th December 2015, the Cabinet Secretary responsible for ACA appointed Igathe as ACA Chairman to take effect from 17th April 2015, the effective date that was the subject of the Court’s orders in the 2015 case. According to the applicant in the present case, this re-appointment of Igathe was both illegal and unconstitutional.
Readers of this blog will recall a previous report here that the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) reinvigorated under the chairmanship of Polycarp Igathe took the unprecedented step of sending four of its senior officers on compulsory leave following numerous complaints from manufacturers, specifically, owners of intellectual property (IP) rights, against the officers who are allegedly engaged in misconduct and defeating the very purpose for which they were engaged in combating counterfeiting. The ACA officers sent on compulsory leave included; Deputy Director for Enforcement, Prosecution and Legal Services Mr. Johnson Adera, Assistant Director for Enforcement Mr. Abdikadir Mohamed, Anti-Counterfeit Inspector II Mr. Weldon Kiprotich Sigei and Anti-Counterfeit Inspector I, Mr. Sammy Arekai Sarich.
In a recent article in the New York Times here, it is alleged that Ugandan tabloid newspaper Red Pepper infringed the copyright of Denver David Robinson, the photographer behind the photographic project titled: “We Are Here: LGBTI in Uganda” which was published by The Advocate, an American L.G.B.T. magazine here.
From an intellectual property (IP) perspective, this blogger aims to discuss Robinson’s claim against Red Pepper and the extent to which the provisions of fair use under Ugandan copyright law would be applicable. In addition, this blogger will also consider the moral rights issues that may arise in this case.
Read the full article here.