Personal Finance

How to protect your digital work in Kenya and beyond

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For an online business, jurisdictional challenges may arise when protecting your work in other countries. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

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Summary

  • While Kenya’s law has good provisions as far as copyright protection and technological measures are concerned, every country its laws. For an online business, jurisdictional challenges may arise when protecting your work in other countries.

Going forward, e-commerce will be the new way of doing business. While Kenya lacks a standalone law on e-commerce, there have been several legislative changes recently, which will provide good support for e-commerce.

One of the unique features about e-commerce is that a good percentage of it takes place in the cyber world where there are no borders. Issues of jurisdiction remain a challenge when conducting an online business.

Kenya’s copyright laws received a boost last year when the Copyright Amendment Act was enacted. This Act contains several new provisions that support e-commerce. Due to Covid-19, many entrepreneurs have been working from home, meaning that a lot of businesses is conducted digitally. For example, many universities are now offering online learning as opposed to the traditional face-to-face interaction.

Businesses in training such as personal coaching also offer their services on online platforms.

In doing so, materials and resources such as books, lectures and others are shared through the platforms.

The original works need to be protected by law. Under the copyright laws, such works were deemed to be protectable. A PowerPoint slide or e-books, for example, could be protected as visual works while an online video as an audio-visual work.

Further protection may be accorded to such works using digital rights systems ( DRMs). Our law refers to them as technological protection measures.

A technology protection measure is any device designed to prevent or restrict certain acts from being done against the works. Platforms like Digify allow authors to install DRMs over their works. Such DRMs are diverse an include password protection, limitation of copying and printing and watermarks.

The law provides for technological protection measures and states that it will be deemed copyright infringement if a third party manipulates the DRM to access the works unlawfully. It is, therefore, infringement to bypass passwords, remove them or alter them. Proven infringement entitles one to certain remedies such as injunctions, damages and delivery up.

Therefore, for those who provide their services through digital platforms, here are some tips to protect your works. As long as they fall under any of the sub-classes of copyright, they should be protected. Take it a step further by using DRMs to protect your works, especially if you seek to commercialise your content. This means that only paid-up individuals will be able to access your works.

Only recently, an app was launched for persons in the creative sector to host their works. This means that plays and live shows will be available digitally on payment of a fee. The government plans to launch a multi-million virtual library soon. This will give paid-up users access to many resources.

For such works, technological protection measures are mandatory to minimise third party infringement.

While Kenya’s law has good provisions as far as copyright protection and technological measures are concerned, every country its laws. For an online business, jurisdictional challenges may arise when protecting your work in other countries. Fortunately, copyright protection is automatic in countries which have signed the Berne Convention. This means your work is protected in a host of countries.

However certain countries like Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Cambodia, Maldives, Seychelles and Angola haven’t ratified Berne Convention. This means you must resort to their national laws in protecting your works. Infringement may otherwise take place if you don’t seek national protection.