A recent judgment by the High Court in the case of Albert Gacheru Kiarie T/A Wamaitu Productions v James Maina Munene & 7 others  eKLR is likely to have profound ramifications for the enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights in Kenya. At the heart of this case is a catalogue of widely popular vernacular songs such as “Mariru (Mwendwa Wakwa Mariru)” which is featured in the video above by Gacheru and produced by the latter’s company, Wamaitu.
According to Gacheru, his music and those of other rights holders he was involved with through his Wamaitu label have all been the subject of piracy and copyright infringement for many years. From 2004, Gacheru was the complainant in a criminal copyright infringement case (Criminal Case No. PP 06 of 2004) and was later granted permission to privately prosecute the case but he was then barred from continuing to undertake the private prosecution for the reason that he intended to serve as a witness in the same case. Gacheru appealed this decision insisting that he should be allowed to act as private prosecutor and witness in his case. The present judgment settles this 12 year old dispute on this matter.
Previously we reported here that two content service providers and three individual copyright owners had filed a constitutional petition at the High Court challenging the content of the equitable remuneration right in section 30A of the Copyright Act, the application and implementation of section 30A by the collective management organisations (CMOs) and the manner of licensing and supervision of the CMOs by Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO).
Recently in the case of Petition No. 317 of 2015 Xpedia Management Limited & 4 Ors v. The Attorney General & 4 Ors Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi (known to many readers for her landmark decision on anti-counterfeit law and access to medicines here) delivered a judgment at the High Court dismissing claims by content service providers and the copyright owners that the contents and implementation of section 30A are unconstitutional.
Where to begin?
Section 6(a) of the Copyright Act states that the Board of Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) shall consist of “a chairman, who shall be appointed by the Minister from amongst the members of registered copyright societies”. The Copyright Act as read with the Interpretation and General Provisions Act defines “Minister” as the Attorney-General who is “the Minister for the time being responsible for matters relating to copyright and related rights.” Under Article 156(4)(a) of the Constitution of Kenya states that the Attorney-General is the “principal legal adviser to the Government” which presumes that the A-G, in the case of public appointments, would have been consulted on their legality or lack thereof especially where those appointments touch on the A-G’s own docket!
Last week, the ever-busy Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) published a public notice stating that it had approved the renewals of registration as collecting societies for Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) and Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRiSK) for the period January 1st to December 31st 2016. According to KECOBO, the collection by the three collecting societies in the area of music will be “jointly undertaken as per the work plan agreed by the three societies in the interest of cutting costs and reducing business disruption.”
Further, KECOBO explains that: “Each [collecting] society shall be required to undertake certain reforms in the course of the first half of the year with a review scheduled for July 2016. KECOBO shall issue an advertisement in July  inviting companies established for the purpose to express interest and bid to collect in 2017 to facilitate transitions if a new establishment is granted a license.”
For KECOBO and the collecting societies this is no mean feat given the long journey thus far towards a single license regime for users of musical works and sound recordings in Kenya. However, KECOBO’s notice leaves out some crucial details which will ultimately determine whether this latest attempt at joint collection will succeed or fail.
To date, Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) has published two sets of draft proposals of amendments to the Copyright Act on collective management organisations (CMOs) available here and on intermediary liability for internet service providers available here. KECOBO has now published a third set of draft legislative proposals namely a draft copyright regulations 2016 available here. These three sets of draft proposals will be the subject of a day-long consultative public forum to be held next week on February 11th 2016 at the Auditorium of NHIF Building starting at 8:00am. For those who will not be able to attend the public forum, KECOBO has set up an email account to receive your comments on the drafts, which is: email@example.com. This blogpost is a commentary of the key features of the draft copyright regulations 2016 proposed by KECOBO.
In an earlier post here, this blogger discussed a set of draft amendments published by Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) for public comments on the subject of internet service providers (ISPs) and web blocking measures in cases of online copyright infringements in Kenya. Subsequently this blogger discussed here several comments submitted to KECOBO on the draft ISP provisions.
This week, KECOBO has published a revised set of draft amendments on ISP liability available here. KECOBO is once again requesting the public to give comments on these ISP provisions through the email account: firstname.lastname@example.org. In this regard, KECOBO has confirmed that it shall convene a consultative public forum on February 11th 2016 at the Auditorium of NHIF Building starting at 8:00am.
This blogpost is a commentary of the key changes in the revised draft ISP provisions from KECOBO.
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”.