Parliament
Sponsor of the Copyright Amendment Bill 2021, MP Gladys Wanga.

MP Gladys Wanga has agreed to drop the push to amend sections of the Copyright Act a move that would have dealt a body blow to the fight against content piracy.

Partners Against Piracy (PAP) has welcomed the plan by Ms Wanga, who is the sponsor of the Copyright Amendment Bill 2021, to drop the repeal.

Through the Bill, Ms Wanga had sought to scrap take-down notices for internet service providers (ISPs) as enshrined in the Act.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Communication, Information and Innovation received memoranda from various stakeholders regarding the Bill.

PAP, a Pan-African, multi-sectoral coalition of stakeholders supporting the creative industry in Kenya, called for the deletion of clauses 5, 6, and 7 in the Bill, which propose repealing of Sections 35B, 35C and 35D in the Copyright Act.

Assented into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2019, Sections 35B, 35C and 35D provide the legal basis for liaison with ISPs, stopping them from being accused of enabling piracy and supporting rights holders in the fight against piracy.

Repealing these sections would have scuttled the war on content piracy in the country.

The Bill proposed to scrap the allowance for issuing ISPs with take-down notices, which direct them to remove suspected pirated content.

By repealing those sections, Kenya’s creative industry could potentially lose Kes14.3 billion per year besides Kes16.3 billion annually in lost revenue to the government.

Read also: Why Bill seeking to weaken Kenya’s copyright law could hurt the economy

Total losses could amount to Kes92 billion per year, as most digital content is priced in foreign currency, as are the costs of platforms, distributors, and retailers, among others.

Since the first reading of the Bill last November, Parliament has received local and international protests against the proposed amendment of the law.

MP John Kiarie said that “the proposal to repeal these sections represent the biggest setback in the history of copyright and is akin to disarming Kenyan authors and rights holders.”

The Music Copyright Society of Kenya, in their #SAYNOTOREMOVALOFSECTION35B-35D and #Handsoffsection35B campaigns, noted that “piracy is currently devastating the creative industry in Kenya,” and that repealing sections 35B-35D of the Copyright Act would “encourage online piracy and loss of revenue making it difficult for creatives to recoup their investments, thereby killing the creative industry.”

“As soon as we go to the floor, in the third reading, all those amendments will be dropped. This is to assure our content creators that this House is not about taking away the gains that we have made in protecting our content creators from piracy,” said Ms Wanga.

She continued: “This morning I received a call from a congressman in the US and everyone is concerned. This was never the intention of these amendments. These amendments are meant to support our artists and the broader industry to make sure our artists and content creators are protected–certainly not to take away those very rights.”

A recent letter from the Sports Rights Owners Coalition (SROC), signed by chairman Mark Lichtenstein, said members were “extremely concerned” at the proposed changes to the Copyright Act.

Kenya Copyright Board (KeCOBO) executive director Edward Sigei said, “take-down notices are a critical tool for copyright holders and related rights holders to fight digital content piracy by controlling the distribution and economic viability of their work and how it is accessed online.”

Welcoming the dropping of Clauses 5, 6 and 7 in the Bill, PAP convener and co-founder of MyMovies.Afric Mike Strano said, “we can now move forward with the implementation of Sections 35B, 35C and 35D, which will be transformational for Kenya’s creative industry and a model for Africa.”

Strano said PAP had spent the past two years co-creating a framework around takedown notices and other matters with the Technology Service Providers of Kenya (TESPOK) – where ISPs are members – via a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

“We hope that the MoU can be signed immediately,” said Strano, “so that creatives will be able to co-operate with the ISPs against piracy, for mutual benefit and the sustainability of Kenya’s creative industry.”

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