Mobile Developer Claims Copyright over Songa Music App by Safaricom, Radio Africa

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The recently reported High Court case of Evans Gikunda v. Patrick Quarcoo & Two Others [2018] was born out of a business deal gone bad. At the heart of this dispute is a music application (app) that the plaintiff (Gikunda) claims to have conceptualised, designed and developed between 2012 and 2016. However Gikunda joined the employ of the 2nd Defendant (Radio Africa Group Limited) in 2013 where the 1st Defendant (Quarcoo), the Chief Executive at Radio Africa, ‘persuaded Gikunda to partner with him to ensure that the product gets to market’.

According to Gikunda, Quarcoo proposed that that once Radio Africa’s Board of Directors sanctioned its participation in his app, they would share out the ownership of the app as follows: Radio Africa – 40%; Gikunda- 30%; Quarcoo- 20%; and the remaining 10% to a strategic partner. However, in mid-2016, Gikunda resigned from Radio Africa after which he alleges that Quarcoo and Radio Africa sold the app, without his knowledge, to the 3rd Defendant (Safaricom).

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High Court Declares Section 30A of the Copyright Act Unconstitutional and CMO License Agreement Unlawful

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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.

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Copyright Dispute over Safaricom’s “BLAZE” Campaign: Transcend Media Granted Anton Pillers Against Saracen Media

court order transcend saracen blaze kenya safaricom copyright case 2016

“We wish to underscore the importance of fostering creativity through respect and protection of intellectual property rights of others. A nation cannot be built on disregard for originality and promotion of copy cats.” – Excerpt from a press statement by Transcend Media Group.

This blogger has come across the recent case of Transcend Media Group Limited v. Saracen Media Limited & 2 Ors Civil Case No. 3644 of 2016 in which Senior Magistrate E.K Usui has granted temporary injunctive orders sought by Transcend, the applicant against Saracen and the two other respondents. The court granted Anton Piller orders allowing Transcend to enter the premises of the respondents to preserve, seize, collect and keep machines, data, documents and storage material relating to Transcend’s copyright work under the supervision of Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) officers. In addition, the respondents have been restrained by the court from any further infringement, alienation, distribution and storage of Transcend’s copyright work pending hearing of the suit.

According to a Business Daily report here, the genesis of this copyright dispute is a Sh208 million tender by Safaricom seeking to procure the services of an advertising agency to handle the mobile network operator’s youth segment brand communication which is now called BLAZE. Transcend submitted its strategy proposal and creative body of works to Safaricom but lost the bid to Saracen. Transcend alleges that Safaricom awarded the business to Saracen and a Company (Fieldstone Helms Limited) owned by former Transcend staff who were involved in Transcend’s bid including the team leader. As a result, Transcend claims that Fieldstone Helms is now “illegally implementing” Transcend’s intellectual property (IP).

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

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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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How A Typo Cost Safaricom the “OKOA STIMA” Trade Mark in Favour of Colour Planet

okoa stima safaricom colour planet trademark case

Recently, a leading newspaper published a story here stating that Safaricom Limited had obtained interlocutory orders against Colour Planet Limited stating that the latter was “forbidden from interfering with any contracts Safaricom has under the banner Okoa Stima, suggesting to any third party that Safaricom does not have the right to use the name Okoa Stima.” The rest of the story is filled with several contradictory and confusing facts regarding trade mark searches made, trade mark applications filed and trade mark registrations with respect to the Okoa Stima mark by both Safaricom and Colour Planet.

This blogpost is intended to set the record straight on the specific issue of the chronology of events at the Trade Mark Registry of Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) involving both Colour Planet and Safaricom between March 2015 and January 2016. For intellectual property (IP) practitioners, this post may also serve as a cautionary tale on the importance of care and caution when handling your clients’ matters pending before KIPI.

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High Court Upholds Freeze of Collecting Society’s Bank Accounts: Ruling in MCSK v Chief Magistrate, Inspector General

Music-Copyright-Society-of-Kenya-MCSK-CEO-Maurice-Okoth People Daily

This blogger has recently come across an astute ruling by the High Court in the case of Music Copyright Society of Kenya v Chief Magistrate’s Court & Inspector General of Police [2015] eKLR. Justice L. Kimaru sitting in the High Court was approached by the authors’ collecting society, Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) to stay orders issued by the Magistrate’s Court freezing all the bank accounts of MCSK following a request by the Serious Crimes Unit under the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). DCI requested that MCSK’s accounts be frozen as it investigates complaints made by MCSK members in regard to alleged misappropriation and theft of funds at the collecting society.

After carefully evaluating the facts before him, Kimaru J ruled that the investigations were lawful and based on several complaints received by DCI from MCSK members and that the orders to freeze MCSK’s accounts were within the precincts of the law.

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Test Case on Liability for Online Copyright Infringement: Music Industry Players Sue ISPs, Telcos and Government

sauti sol sura yako

This blogger has recently come across the case of Bernsoft Interactive & 2 Ors v. Communications Authority of Kenya & 9 Ors Petition No. 600 of 2014, a recently filed constitutional petition seeking injunctive orders to compel internet service providers (ISPs) in Kenya to block websites engaged in piracy and declaratory orders that the State has failed in its constitutional and legal obligations to protect the intellectual property rights of Kenyans. The state organs that are targetted in this Petition including the telecommunications regulator, Communications Authority of Kenya; the copyright office, Kenya Copyright Board and the principal legal advisor to the Government, the Office of the Attorney General. A copy of the petition is available in .pdf here.

The major ISPs (in terms of the number of subscribers in Kenya) have all been enjoined in the suit including: Safaricom, Airtel, Jamii Telecom, Wananchi Group, Access Kenya, Liquid Telecom and Telkom Kenya.

The petitioners cite the infamous site: http://www.wapkid.com which allows users to illegally download sound recordings and audio-visual works online. The ISPs are accused of allowing its subscribers to use its internet networks to illegally acquire copyright works through sites such as wapkid. In this connection, it is alleged that the ISPs allow the transmission in digital form, these copyright protected music through their networks and into, and out of, the personal computers, phones and various gadgets that are used for online copyright piracy.

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To illustrate its claims, the Petition submits into evidence the above screenshot of a Wapkid page linking to the location where one of the Petitioner’s members, Sauti Sol’s musical work known as “Sura Yako” is hosted. Through the “premium” or “free” options on the wapkid site, the user can download the unauthorized copy of Sauti Sol’s audiovisual work to his/her computer or phone or tablet for unlimited viewing or further distribution.

The matter came up for hearing before High Court Justice Lenaola earlier this month.

This blogger commends the petitioners for their efforts and will be closely following the developments in this case.