Kenya targets websites in new copyright law

NAIROBI: Internet service providers (ISPs) might soon face fines or prison terms as the Government clamps down on content piracy in a move to protect earnings in the country’s fledgling film industry.

This is part of a push to have Kenyan local content earn a larger foothold on Kenya’s airwaves currently dominated by Nigerian and Latin American programming.

The Government is now turning it’s sights on ISPs in a move to curb piracy, which erodes revenues for the country’s film industry.

“We are proposing to introduce an amendment in the Copyright Act that will place the onus of responsibility for Kenyan content illegally downloaded, squarely on local internet service providers,” said Head of the Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo) Edward Sigei.

If the proposal goes through, ISPs will be obligated to stem any illegal downloads of Kenyan content through their channels or face punitive action that will range from fines to prison sentences.

“At this point we do not have a legal mechanism that caters for situations where your work is uploaded and is being exploited online,” explained Mr Sigei.

“We are borrowing from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of America and others that have come after it and we have designed an amendment where the ISP will be liable under certain circumstances for infringements that happen through their channels.”

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The US Digital Millennium Act (DMCA) is considered the most comprehensive piece of legislation in the world that covers music artists and filmmakers from the onslaught of the Internet and digital piracy made commonplace by increased Internet access.

Under the Act, ISPs are protected against copyright infringement liability provided they meet set requirements among them promptly blocking access to material which has been flagged as pirated.

“We are working with the ICT Cabinet Secretary and the Communication Authority in partnership with other pieces of legislation that are in the pipeline like the Cyber Crime Bill because this is something that should be in place,” said Sigei.

He further adds that the legislation will protect all content produced in the country by Kenyans and violators, irrespective of geography, will be sought out.

“The sites may not be local but the ISPs are local and they have technological measures that allow them to block certain sites within their area of service provision,” he explains.

The proposal is set to go before the public, media owners and ISPs within the next 30 days for input before it is taken to Parliament for approval.

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ISPsKenya Copyright BoardKecobo