Concern over proposed Law that will affect Kenyan content creators

Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2021 raises alarm among creatives in Kenya

Kenya Copyright Board Executive Director Edward Sigei

The Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2021, currently in the public participation stage, has sparked concerns among drivers of Kenya's creative industry.

The Partners Against Piracy (PAP) forum has expressed reservations with provisions in the proposed law which will see three critical sections repealed from Kenya's Copyright (Amendment) Act 2019.

According to the lobby group, removing Sections 35B, 35C and 35D will make it harder for creatives to uphold their rights when dealing with Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

PAP adds that efforts in combating piracy will be curtailed, should the Bill become law.

"With the creative industry of Kenya ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, the ISP related Provisions in the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2019 are an opportunity to help our creatives quickly recover, attract local and foreign investment and create jobs for thousands of unemployed youths.

"Furthermore, the repeal of these important provisions will continue to abet the illegal operations involved in offering pirated content online, including crimes like tax evasion, identity theft, data ransom, money laundering and fraud. These same crime groups are also involved in trafficking of humans, organs, drugs, weapons and more, as well as terrorism, contract killing and counterfeiting," the lobby stated.

The highlighted sections of the Copyright Act outline the process through which a copyright holder can demand an ISP to take down content when copyrights have been violated (Section 35B), instances when ISPs are required to cooperate with authorities in identifying content pirates (Section 35C) and giving the High Court authority to grant orders when a petitioner believes their copyrighted material is being pirated within or outside the borders of Kenya (Section 35D).

"Piracy is currently devastating the creative industry of Kenya. PAP estimates that piracy is costing the Industry Sh92 billion per year.

"This includes a Sh16.25 billion loss in taxes to the government and KES 14.31 billion losses to thousands of local content creators, like actors, animators, authors, cartoonists, comedians, composers, dancers, filmmakers, game developers, graphic designers, illustrators, musicians, music producers, photographers, podcasters, publishers, television producers, videographers, writers and others," PAP reported.

Bill Sponsored by ODM Woman Representative

The controversial Bill is sponsored by Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga, who publicly mentioned that it had been conceived after deliberations with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

"The object of the bill is to provide for a fair formula for sharing of revenue from ring-back tunes between the artistes/copyright holders and the telecoms companies," the Woman Rep explained in a memo on the document.

There has been debate on musicians' earnings from the Safaricom-owned platform, Skiza tunes. As it stands, they earn 16%, 25% goes to tax, while the ISP retains 51%. The Bill now proposes 52% earnings for artistes for the ring-back tones, which Ms Wanga has used as a selling point for the contentious bill.

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