MultiChoice sues Safaricom, Jamii

Players vie for a ball during a past English Premier League match between Arsenal and Burnley. MultiChoice has the exclusive rights to broadcast the popular league in Kenya through its SuperSport channels. [AFP]

Pay-TV service provider MultiChoice is suing Safaricom and Jamii Telecom over copyright infringement.

The landmark case will put to the test the effectiveness of the newly enacted Copyright Act 2019 in addressing such disputes.

In the suit filed earlier this month, MultiChoice wants the court to compel the two firms to block access to websites streaming matches pirated from its SuperSport channels.

“Section 35B of the Copyright Act obligates an Internet service provider to take down any infringing content within 48 hours of being served with a takedown notice,” says MultiChoice in court papers.

MultiChoice further accuses Safaricom and Jamii Telecom of ignoring a takedown notice dated October 29.

“The rebroadcasting, retransmitting or replicating the exclusive content of the applicant without their authorisation is a breach of their rights, is unlawful and causes irreparable economic loss to the applicant, not to mention other losses and evils that piracy perpetrates,” says the firm.

In September, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2019, introducing new clauses that placed liability for copyright infringement on Internet service providers (ISPs).

“A person whose rights have been infringed by content to which access is being offered by an Internet service provider may request, by way of a takedown notice, that the ISP removes the infringing content,” says Section 35B of the Act in part.

The ISP is then expected to provide the person responsible for uploading the copyright-infringing content with a copy of the takedown notice and disable access to the same within 48 hours, unless a counter notice objecting to the takedown is filed.

The new amendments have given regulators wider legal mandate in administrating legislation on copyright and intellectual property.

Earlier this month, the Copyright Board of Kenya and Communications Authority of Kenya issued a joint notice, giving broadcasters and ISPs until the end of this month to comply with the new law.

MultiChoice further accuses Safaricom and the ISP of seeking to challenge the constitutionality of sections 35B, 35C and 35D in a bid to scuttle enforcement of the new law.