The recently reported High Court case of Evans Gikunda v. Patrick Quarcoo & Two Others  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).
This week, Netflix, the popular American multinational subscription video on demand (SVoD) internet streaming media service provider announced that it’s service has gone live globally. Kenya is among 130 countries that can now access internet streaming TV from Netflix. In Kenya, Netflix is now available via their official website: https://www.netflix.com/ke/ which means that for one monthly price Kenyan consumers can sign up to enjoy Netflix original series as well as its huge catalog of licensed TV shows and movies simultaneously with the rest of the world. As of October 2015, Netflix had 69.17 million subscribers globally, including more than 43 million in the United States of America.
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.
The International Federation of Musicians (FIM) reports that powerful record label umbrella body International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has written to Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) demanding the removal of Section 30A of Kenya Copyright Act. (See our previous discussions of section 30A here)
According to FIM, the criticism of section 30A by IFPI is an unacceptable “step backwards, the implication of which is that all treaties guaranteeing artists’ rights would be made devoid of any meaning (Rome Convention, WPPT, Beijing Treaty).”
This month South Africa’s top comedian Trevor Noah announced that he will be joining the award-winning late-night satirical news show, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” aired on US cable network, Comedy Central (CC). For those who would want to enjoy this Emmy and Peabody Award-winning television show on demand, there is always “Hulu”, a leading online video service. However for those accessing Hulu outside the US, you are likely to receive the following notice: “We’re sorry, currently our video library can only be streamed within the United States. For more information on Hulu’s international availability, click here.”
A similar service to Hulu called Netflix has been the subject of conversation in South Africa in a recent article here by TechCentral South Africa titled: “DStv wont sue Netflix users” then later changed to “DStv to launch Catch Up Plus”. The relevant portion of the article reads: “[DStv Digital Media CEO John] Kotsaftis says it’s not clear if it’s legal or not for South Africans to watch Netflix and similar services. What is clear, he says, is that these companies are breaking the law when they allow access to services to consumers in markets for which they haven’t purchased content distribution rights.” In this regard, many Kenyans may ask: “when you purchase a US virtual private network (VPN) to by-pass Netflix or Hulu region locks to watch shows and movies that are supposed to only be available to Americans, is that copyright infringement?” This blogpost explains why this question must be answered in the affirmative.
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I am hesitant to believe the Defendants’ argument on the issue of intellectual property rights to the event since the traditional common law view that has prevailed is that it is difficult to attach ‘any precise meaning to the phrase “property in a spectacle”. A spectacle in this case refers to an event. A “spectacle” cannot, therefore, be “owned” in any ordinary sense of that word. – Mabeya J. in AMCIL v Joseph Mathenge Mugo & ABMCIL HCCC 242 of 2013 at paragraph 29.
In the recent case of Africa Management Communication International Limited v. Joseph Mathenge Mugo & Access Business Management Conferencing International Ltd. HCCC 242 of 2013 (hereafter the HR Symposium case), Justice Mabeya held that there are no intellectual property (IP) rights in a spectacle or event dubbed “Human Resource Symposium”. In holding that there is no IP in a spectacle, Justice Mabeya cited the Australian case of Victoria Park Racing and Recreation Grounds Co. Ltd v. Taylor (1937) (hereafter the Taylor case) where Latham CJ stated that: “The law of copyright does not operate to give any person an exclusive right to state or to describe particular facts. A person cannot by first announcing that a man fell off a bus or that a particular horse won a race prevent other people from stating those facts.”
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