Copyright and IP law in Kenya

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In a fashion not common in the country but apparently common in the west, Lawyer Miguna Miguna published Peeling Back The Mask, (a book that is billed as a Memoir but is viewed as an expose`) He was on the way to making millions.

His book was pricey, but had alot of juicy nuggets that the public relish and was thus a sure sell. Barely 2 weeks after its launch/release, a PDF version of the book hit the internet and was downloaded over 40,000 times in a 48 hour period. The losses accrue in o the millions of shillings and being the brash lawyer he is, Miguna has vowed to sue Nation Media Group , the media house that serialized the book prior to its launch.

ipkenya in this post has investigated the veracity of Miguna Miguna’s case and explored options including an interview with Dr. Marisella Ouma, Executive Director of KECOBO on the issue.

It is a worthy read and paints a good picture of what may transpire. This will be a litmus test of the newly revamped Judiciary under the leadership of the new Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga.

By and large this incident creates a good talk point around the issue of intellectual theft in Africa in general and Kenya in particular.

The no. of pirate dens in the capital alone are appalling with more shops than you can count selling pirated Hollywood content. The local authorities largely ignore the foreign content but crack down mercilessly on those that pirate local content.

Local producers thus enjoy some level of protection from pirates as opposed to the foreigners who most likely do not even have an adequate distribution mechanism.

The Nigerians seem to have it under control if  this Article by Sarah Lacy for Techcrunch  is anything to go by. Africans seem to frown upon pirating their neighbor’s works but content created oceans away is almost encouraged. It is kind of hilarious and very self preservative if you think about it. I avoid talking about fairness because that has never existed least of all in Africa home of  the Savannah heirachy led by the African Lion.

As opposed to viewing the pirates as a problem however, considering them as a resource and embracing them may be an option. This may seem drastic but it is common knowledge that the private sector are ruthlessly efficient in allocating resources and squeezing out earnings.  To leverage on the already existing pirate network to channell legit copies would even help some of those wanting to run legitimate tax compliant enterprises. But this all starts with adequate pricing of the content. The reason

Low price high traffic is a viable model that I feel is applicable to the continent at large. After all we are not burdened by legacy systems and business models like tying all movies to the big screen.

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