The High Court has ordered two internet service providers to take down or disable all websites pirating content owned by MultiChoice. The order against Safaricom and Jamii Telecom is a blow to sports enthusiasts who stream matches pirated from MultiChoice’s SuperSport channels. Justice Wilfrida Okwany issued temporary orders targeting sites suspected to be airing Multichoice’s content without its permission. The pay-TV service provider sued Safaricom and Jamii Telecom over copyright infringement.
The landmark case will put to the test the effectiveness of the Copyright Act 2019 in addressing such disputes. In its case, 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,” said MultiChoice in court papers.
MultiChoice further accused Safaricom and Jamii Telecom of ignoring a takedown notice dated October 29, 2019.
“The rebroadcasting, re-transmitting 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 says.
Safaricom and Jamii Telecom have however denied infringing Multichoice’s copyright. They argue that their role is to just provide internet to their clients and do not have control on what they do with them. The two argue that it would be the work of Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) to block any sites or pull down any content that is infringing MultiChoice’s rights.
They say the sites do not belong to them. Safaricom and Jamii Telecom opposed the prayers for temporary orders, arguing that the issue of copyrights had since lapsed. They insisted that the dispute can only be determined if the case is heard in full. In September last year, 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.
The ISP is then expected to provide the person or firm responsible for uploading the copyright-infringing content with a copy of the takedown notice. The firm is then expected to disable access to the content within 48 hours unless a counter-notice objecting to the takedown is filed. The amendments gave regulators wider legal mandate in administrating legislation on copyright and intellectual property.
MultiChoice further accused Safaricom and Jamii Telecom of seeking to challenge the constitutionality of sections 35B, C and D in a bid to scuttle enforcement of the new law. The case will be heard on March 3, 2021.