The Government is commitment to copyright protection and access to public information, Attorney General Paul Kihara has said.
Speaking as he officially opened a four-day conference for Africa’s heads of copyright offices at Boma Hotel in Nairobi, yesterday, the AG said his office was in the process of ensuring that Kenya ratified all the international copyright treaties that it is a signatory to.
The meeting is hosted by the Kenya Copyright Board and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
“I wish to inform you that the process of ratification of the Beijing Treaty is now at the Parliamentary Stage, while the Cabinet is considering the ratification of the WIPO Internet Treaties,” he said.
He said the Copyright Amendment Bill had been forwarded to Parliament. Once enacted into law, it is expected to safeguard the interests of creators in the digital environment.
The Bill also addresses the gaps identified in the current legal framework in the supervision of collective management organisations.
The AG appealed to copyright offices to build strong institutions to enhance the growth of copyright-related industries and the creative sectors in their respective countries, describing these as the new frontiers for Africa’s development.
Studies conducted with the support of WIPO indicate that copyright-based industries and creative expression contribute significantly to the GDP of many countries, including Tanzania, Malawi, South Africa and Kenya.
According to the AG, the copyright rights-based industry in Kenya currently contributes Sh85.1 billion per year to the country’s economy, which is equivalent to 5.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“The studies further establish that Africa is a significant importer of many creative products, especially movies, music and books,” said Mr Kihara.
He said this represented an opportunity and a challenge to the culture and languages in the region, warning that Africa must guard against the misappropriation of its cultural property. “Africa must now change to be a consumer of its own music, art and culture. The protection of the copyrights will essentially put money into the pockets of authors, producers and all creators,” Kihara said.
The conference’s theme is Regional Seminar on Exceptions and Limitations for Libraries, Archives, Museums, Educational and Research Institutions in the field of Copyright.
Its main objective is to review progress made in the last five years in the area of copyright management after the launch of Harare and Yaoundé Action plans by African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) and African Intellectual Property Organisation (OAPI) respectively.
The AG said for museums and archives, an unbalanced copyright system would deny access to institutions that collect, document and preserve works and materials of national and cultural interest.
“There is need for the rights of the creatives to be protected and their works promoted for sustainable development, because the copyright industry has grown and with the advancement in technology over the years,” said the AG.
According WIPO Deputy Director General Sylvie Forbin, it was vital for copyright heads to work together and learn from each other if the region was to shape how copyright is developed. “A dynamic and successful Africa is our target,” said Ms Forbin.
She said the dynamics of copyrights were changing rapidly in Africa, especially with rapid expansion of the internet in the continent.