Copyright law changes threat to IP rights


I have noted with concern the proposed changes to the Copyright Act contained in the Copyright Amendment Bill currently at the second reading in the National Assembly.

The Bill proposes among others repeal of Internet Service Providers (ISP) Liability Provisions contained in sections 35B, 35C and 35 D of the Copyright Act.

Other proposed amendments seek to ringfence the earnings from ringback tones and establishment of National Rights Registry, which are fairly justifiable.

The proposal to repeal these sections represents the biggest setback in the history of copyright and is akin to disarming Kenyan authors and right holders.

Infringement of copyright online, even as trade-in content is now mainly digital, is rife making that provision in the Act very critical.

I was part of the ICT Committee that considered and passed the Copyright Amendment Act in 2019, a milestone in our copyright law in line with the digital times that we are in.

The Copyright Act now provides for safe harbours for ISPs and a procedure for notice and takedown in line with international standards. These are the provisions proposed to be removed under clauses 5 to 7 of the current draft Bill.

The 2019 amendment was inspired by Articles 11 and 40 of the Constitution, which oblige the State to protect and promote the intellectual property rights of its citizens. The other reason for the passage was the need to upgrade our laws in line with the World Intellectual Property Organization standard.

The Copyright (Amendment) Act 2019 will, in my view, be one of the groundbreaking laws this 12th National Assembly has passed since 2017.

As a youthful member of Jubilee, I considered this legislation a fulfilment of the pledges made during our election campaigns. I still consider the passage of the law a legacy of the Jubilee administration under President Uhuru Kenyatta.

I have heard from a wide range of investors and stakeholders in the sector, including the Kenya Copyright Board, all of whom are opposed to the repeal.

John Kiarie is the Member of Parliament, Dagoretti South