President Uhuru Kenyatta has signed into the law the Copyright Amendment Bill, 2017. The draft of the bill was developed sometime in 2016 and had been undergoing review ever since before the latest development from State House.
Before the signing, the existing copyright law in Kenya was put in place when very few people had access to the internet. At that time, it was possible that a more robust approach to drafting the provisions of the law was not undertaken, including the nature of safeguarding copyrighted materials from being transmitted over the internet.
It is also worth noting that copyrights in the state are under the Copyright Act, 2001 that saw the establishment of the Kenyan Copyright Board (KECOBO). The institution is tasked with ensuring that all literary works, visuals, audio, recordings and artistic works, to mention a few, are protected. The establishment of the Act has since been faulted for not doing enough to protect creative works.
The amendment of the bill looked forward to including key features into the law, such as the role of ISPs that offer internet access and transmission of information to Kenyans. To this end, the bill made room for a clause that would task ISPs to restrict or delete copyright-infringing content in a 48-hour window after reporting from a copyright holder. Failure to take down such material is an offense and punishable under the law.
KECOBO now can identify individuals involved in such illegal activities because the law allows ISPs to give that information to the institution. Also, ISPs do not have control over what users post on the internet, hence they may not be liable for what their users may be involved in.
We hope the creative sector will leverage the provisions of the law to grow in a market where the industry has been performing below expectations due to its mostly unprofessional management.