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.
This blogger has come across a recent judgment in the case of Mercy Munee Kingoo & Anor v. Safaricom Limited & Anor [unreported] Malindi High Court Constitutional Petition No. 5 of 2016 delivered by Mr. Justice S.J Chitembwe on 3rd November 2016. At the heart of this Petition was the claim that section 30A of the Copyright Act is unconstitutional. This Petition raised two important issues for determination: firstly, whether the petition is ‘res judicata’ in light of two earlier decided High Court Petitions (discussed previously here and here) in which section 30A was not found to be unconstitutional and secondly, whether the amendment of the Copyright Act and introduction of section 30A is unconstitutional for failure to observe the principles of public participation.
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!
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”.
As readers may know, a government taskforce had earlier recommended the merger of the three intellectual property (IP) offices dealing with copyright, industrial property and anti-counterfeit matters. The implementation of these recommendations appears to have stalled with no progress made to-date. In addition to the IP offices, there is also the matter of the various IP dispute resolution bodies created under the various IP laws: the Industrial Property Act establishes the Industrial Property Tribunal, the Copyright Act establishes the Competent Authority (akin to a Copyright Tribunal), the Anti-Counterfeit Act establishes the Anti-Counterfeit Agency and the Seeds and Plant Varieties Act establishes the Seeds and Plant Tribunal.
Recently, the Judiciary Working Committee on Transition and Restructuring of Tribunals developed a Draft Tribunal Bill 2015 to help domicile all tribunals under the Judiciary. This is an important step that could benefit IP owners and users in the quick and expert settlement of various IP-related disputes.
Most IP observers will concur that in the recent past the related rights collecting societies namely Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) and Performers’ Rights Society of Kenya (PRiSK) have done exceedingly well for themselves in the area of legislative and policy reforms by leveraging on the goodwill from Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO). As a result, KAMP and PRiSK have been the major beneficiaries of consecutive amendments to the Copyright Act and Copyright Regulations in 2012, 2014 and now 2015.
Recently, the Attorney General made Copyright Amendment Regulations which expressly deal with the private copying levy or blank tape levy payable to KAMP and PRiSK under sections 28 and 30 respectively of the Copyright Act. In addition, the Attorney General has also recently approved and gazetted the tariffs to be used by KAMP and PRiSK to collect royalties from various categories of users including broadcasters, telecommunications companies, service providers, business premises and vehicles both public as well as corporate.
This blogger has recently come across Nairobi High Court Civil Case No. 262 of 2015 Irene Mutisya & Anor v. Music Copyright Society of Kenya & Anor. In this case Mutisya and another copyright owner Masivo have filed suit against Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) and mobile network operator Safaricom Limited for copyright infringement. The copyright owners filed an urgent application on 30th July 2015 for a temporary injunction to restrain Safaricom from remitting license fees to MCSK pursuant to a recently concluded license agreement for caller ring-back tones (CRBT) made available through Safaricom’s Skiza platform. The copyright owners also asked the court to restrain both Safaricom and MCSK from implementing the CRBT License Agreement pending the hearing of the application.