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Government w*rned against impending changes in Copyright law

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022 06:36 | By
President Uhuru Kenyatta. Photo/FILE

The Sports Rights Owner Coalition (SROC), an alliance of more than 50 leading international and national sports rights holders, has called on the Kenyan government to refrain from enacting changes to Copyright law in the country.

The SROC has written an open letter to the government, expressing concern about the Copyright Amendment Bill currently before parliament.

In the recent letter, signed by chairman Mark Lichtenstein, the SROC says its members are “extremely concerned” at changes that will be made to Kenya’s Copyright Act if the Amendment Bill becomes law.

The SROC is particularly worried about proposals to repeal sections 35B, 35C and 35D of the Copyright Act, which currently allows for take-down notices issued to internet-based service provider platforms which enable content piracy.

Kenya’s 2019 Copyright Amendment Bill incorporates principles from the World Intellectual Property Organisation Internet Treaties of 1996, aimed at preventing unauthorised access to and use of creative works. Take-down notices are among these principles.

The SROC and its supporters have also argued that repealing section 35 of the Copyright Act would jeopardise Kenya’s ability to renew participation in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Agreement (AGOA) programme, as one of the additional provisions of renewal requires a demonstrated commitment to copyright protection.

The SROC also points out that in Europe, policymakers are strengthening not weakening the effectiveness of take-down notices, particularly regarding live content. New proposals to protect live content more effectively in Europe are expected in the first half of 2022.

“Were the Copyright Amendment Bill to be enacted, it could have devastating consequences for both the Kenyan economy and Kenyan consumers,” the SROC letter reads. “Rights holders from sport and other creative industries are extremely unlikely to license their content in a jurisdiction that effectively legitimises piracy. Consumers would therefore be deprived of watching their favourite sports and television shows, and leave Kenya isolated on the global copyright stage.”

The Kenya Copyright Board (KeCOBO) has backed the SROC letter. “Take-down notices are a critical tool for copyright holders and related rights holders to fight digital content piracy by controlling the distribution and economic viability of their work and how it is accessed online,” Edward Sigei, KeCOBO executive director, said.

“Across the world, they help to safeguard the intellectual property rights of sports rights owners. If rights owners cannot request that pirated sports content be taken down immediately, that will threaten the future of live sports broadcasts in Kenya. Why would international sports media allow sports broadcasts in Kenya, if they have no way of stopping them from being pirated?”

Earlier this month, the Association of European Professional Football Leagues (European Leagues) criticised the EU Parliament, saying that its recent plenary vote on the Digital Services Act did not sufficiently respond to sports rights-holders' requests to urgently address digital piracy.

European Leagues, and fellow sports bodies, broadcasters and rights sellers, were encouraged last year by the EU Parliament’s vote to create new legislation to remove all pirated sports content within 30 minutes.

However, European Leagues called on EU co-legislators to make the DSA “fit for live content” by rejecting an article, 14.3. a), added at the “last minute”.

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