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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Sorry, Sony: Japanese Electronics Maker Fails to Prove “SONY” Trade Mark Well-Known in Kenya

sony shop kenya anisuma traders P1040664

Recent media reports indicate that Sony Corporation has filed an appeal in the High Court against the decision of the Registrar of Trade Marks at Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) allowing the registration of two trade marks namely “SONY HOLDINGS” (WORDS AND DEVICE) and “SONY HOLDINGS” (WORDS).

Given the high likelihood that the High Court may defer to the expert determination of the Trade Mark Registrar, this blogpost considers the ruling made by the Registrar in the opposition proceedings with the costs totaling about Kshs 1,252,400.00 awarded to Sony Holdings.

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Kenyans Pay Three Times More Than South Africans to Use Sound Recordings: Lessons from Appeal Court Judgment in SAMPRA v. Foschini Retail Group & 9 Ors

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Recently, Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) published on its website here the proposed 2016 collecting society joint tariffs for musical works, sound recordings and audio-visual works. A copy of these joint tariffs is available here. In order to ensure public participation before the approval of these tariffs, KECOBO will convene an open half-day public forum to be held next week on February 10th 2016 at the Auditorium of NHIF Building starting at 8:30am.

This blogpost will focus on the tariffs for sound recordings since they have recently been the subject of thorough debate and analysis in South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal. It is hoped that the South African experience will be useful to Kenyan users in their negotiations with collecting societies on reasonable tariffs to pay for use of copyright works.

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Digital Migration Case: Flawed Reasoning by Court of Appeal on Intellectual Property Issues

Signet Kenya Limited, Star Times Media Limited, Pan Africa Network Group Kenya Limited and GOTV Kenya Limited are hereby prohibited from broadcasting any content from Royal Media Services Limited, Nation Media Group Limited and Standard Group Limited without their consent, pending the hearing and determination of the intended appeal. – Ojwang & Wanjala, SCJJ in Communications Commission of Kenya v Royal Media Services Limited & 10 others [2014] eKLR.

There’s an interesting saying about intellectual property (IP) adjudication in Kenya which states that: “most of the time, the outcome may be right but the reasoning is often wrong.” The recent decision by a three-judge bench of the Court of Appeal in the case of Royal Media Services Limited & 2 others v Attorney General & 8 others [2014] eKLR (digital migration case) is a clear illustration of the above saying. Although the matter is currently on appeal before the Supreme Court, this blogpost intends to analyse the reasoning of the Court of Appeal’s majority and minoirty judgments in this matter.

Two out of the three appellate judges (Nambuye and Maraga JJA) set aside the judgment of Majanja, J in the High Court (discussed by this blogger here) and made two IP-related findings in their separate but concurring judgments, namely:-

1. THAT the learned Judge erred in law in holding the Appellants’ intellectual property rights were not violated by the Respondents in broadcasting the Appellants’ programs and content without their consent.

2. THAT the learned Judge erred in law in holding that infringement of intellectual property rights could not be the subject of a constitutional Petition.

It is this blogger’s considered opinion that the above majority view of the Court of Appeal is fundamentally flawed as the Court of Appeal (curiously) arrives at two determinations on IP issues without any reference to any IP legislation.

For instance, the learned appellate judge Nambuye JA at paragraph 91 states that: “I do appreciate that the content both developed and acquired from 3rd parties fits the definition of intellectual property”. To support her position, the judge cites the definition of “property” under the Interpretation and General Provisions Act Cap 2 Laws of Kenya and Article 260 of the Constitution of Kenya.

It is trite that neither Cap 2 nor the Constitution contain a definition of “intellectual property”. The definition of intellectual property depends on the specific subject-matter and the correlated rights which are contained in various pieces of legislation.

In similar fashion, Maraga JA at paragraph 64 states that: “to allow any broadcaster to air FTA programmes of others without their consent amounts to infringement on the IPRs of the owners of those programmes.” However the learned appellate judge does not define and explain which specific intellectual property subject matter and/or specific right(s) in that subject-matter have been violated. In addition, Maraga JA does not set out any accepted test under intellectual property law for infringement.

Despite the Court of Appeal’s flawed reasoning as illustrated above, the outcome of the case is right on the issue of IP infringement. From an intellectual property perspective, all broadcasts are recognised as a category of copyright works under section 22(1). Therefore broadcasters are recognised as holders of neighbouring/related rights under copyright law, like producers and performers. Broadcasters have the right to authorize or prohibit the following acts as defined in the Copyright Act:
(a) Rebroadcasting of their broadcasts
(b) Fixation of their broadcasts;
(c) Reproduction of such fixations;
(d) Communication to the public of their television broadcasts if such communication is made in places accessible to the public against payment of an entrance fee

Section 35(1) provides that if any of the above acts are done by any person without the authority of the broadcaster, the latter’s rights under copyright are infringed. Subsection 4 of this section provides that infringement is actionable at the suit of the rights holder (assignee or exclusive licensee as the case may be) and the latter may be entitled to a wide array of reliefs including damages, injunction, accounts, delivery up, reasonable royalty, among others.
For this reason alone, this blogger agrees with Majanja J’s reasoning in the High Court that IP infringement claims cannot be the subject of a constitutional petition.

This blogger will continue to keenly monitor and update readers on the developments in this matter as it is heard by the Supreme Court.

Interpretation of Intellectual Property Rights in Kenya’s Constitution: Lessons from Supreme Court Advisory Opinion on the One-Third Gender Rule

Supreme Court Fountain Kenya

It is true the constitution will present the courts with inconsistencies, grey areas, contradictions, vagueness, bad grammar and syntax, legal jargon, all hallmarks of a negotiated document that took decades to complete. It reflects contested terrains, vested interested that are sought to be harmonized, and a status quo to be mitigated. These features in our constitution should not surprise anybody, not the bench, or the bar or the academia. What cannot be denied, however, is we have a working formula, approach and guidelines to unravel these problems as we interpret the constitution. We owe that interpretative framework of its interpretation to the Constitution itself. – W. Mutunga, CJ, Supreme Court of Kenya, Advisory Opinion No. 2 of 2012.

On 10th October 2012, the Attorney General sought the Supreme Court’s advisory opinion on one notable issue: Whether Article 81(b) as read with Article 27(4), Article 27(6), Article 27(8), Article 96, Article 97, Article 98, Article 177(1)(b), Article 116, and Article 125 of the Constitution of the Republic of Kenya require progressive realization of the enforcement of the one third gender rule or if it requires the same to be implemented during the general elections scheduled for 4th March 2013.

This month, the Supreme Court delivered its Advisory Opinion on the issue raised above, in which the majority view supported progressive realisation of the gender equity rule and whereas a dissenting view in the minority argued for immediate realisation of the constitutional rule. The four Supreme Court judges in majority namely Justices Tunoi, Ojwang, Wanjala, Ndungu were of the opinion that the gender equity principle in Article 81(b) of the Constitution is a statement of aspiration and would only transform into a specific, enforceable right after it is supported by a concrete normative provision.

In arriving at this majority view, the following statement was made:

“The word “shall” in our perception, will translate to immediate command only where the task in question is a cut-and-dried one, executed as it is without further moulding or preparation, and where the subject is inherently disposable by action emanating from a single agency.”

Read the rest of this article on the CIPIT Law Blog here.

Law School Dean and IP Scholar Nominated to Kenya’s Court of Appeal

Kenyan media report indicate that Prof. James Otieno-Odek is among a list of 16 candidates nominated by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to serve in the Court of Appeal, Kenya’s second highest court in the land after the newly-constituted Supreme Court. It may be recalled that Prof. Odek had previously been shortlisted for the position of Supreme Court Judge but his candidature was unsuccessful.

This blogger is glad that the government of Kenya has finally recognised Odek’s wealth of knowledge and experience. A graduate of Yale and Toronto Law Schools, Prof. Odek has over 25 years of postdoctoral work behind him and has been actively involved in research, teaching and policy formulation at national, regional and international level. Many will recall that Prof Odek was a candidate for the post of Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) back in 2008. Previously he has been Managing Director of the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) and was the Chairman of the WIPO Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. He is currently the Dean of the University of Nairobi School of Law and taught this blogger international intellectual property law at LL.M.

IPKenya hopes that the good prof’s nomination will sail through to presidential appointment. Odek’s presence in the Court of Appeal is a welcomed step in law reform and creating a robust jurisprudence in IP for Kenya.