MultiChoice seeks punishment of telco over pirated websites

Laikipia County CEC of Trade Biwott Tirop and MultiChoice Kenya Managing Director Nancy Matimu unveil the plaque of the new mast in Nanyuki. [James Wanzala,Standard]

The battle between a pay-tv firm and internet service providers (ISP) has escalated following court orders on pirated content.

High Court Judge Wilfrida Okwany last month ordered Jamii Telecom and Safaricom to block websites that are airing pirated content owned by MultiChoice.

While Safaricom complied, the fight has now shifted to Jamii Telecom, which is accused of failing to obey the orders to pull down 141 websites.

MultiChoice has gone back to court seeking to punish Jamii Telecom for alleged contempt of court. The pay-tv firm’s lawyer Eddie Omondi in the application filed on Friday argued that MultiChoice continues to suffer losses out of the ‘free’ content that is being aired by the pirated sites.

“The continuous disobedience of the said orders by the respondent has and continues to occasion huge losses to the applicant as their protected content is accessed freely by the pirating sires and or domain with the respondent’s perpetuation,” said Omondi.

MultiChoice wants Jamii Telecom’s chief executive officer Joshua Kipchumba compelled to pay a fine or committed to jail.

“To date, the respondent (Jamii) has neglected, declined, and or refused to comply with the said orders as they continue to allow access of the pirating sires through their services in total disregard of the said orders,” Omondi added.

In this case, MultiChoice sued Safaricom and Jamii Telecom over copyright infringement. The landmark case puts to the test the effectiveness of the Copyright Act 2019 in addressing such disputes.

MultiChoice was asking 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 ISP to take down any infringing content within 48 hours of being served with a takedown notice,” said MultiChoice in court papers.

The firm further accused Safaricom and Jamii Telecom of ignoring a takedown notice dated October 29, 2019.

“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,” it claimed.

While dismissing the claims, Safaricom and Jamii Bora denied infringing on MultiChoice’s copyright.

They argue that their role is to just provide internet to their clients and do not have control over what they do with them.

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