KECOBO secures landmark court order – Safaricom and Jamii Telkom forced to block 141 sites

The Kenyan High Court issued orders requiring Safaricom Plc and Jamii Telkom Limited to pull down and disable 141 sites that are suspected to be infringing on Multichoice Kenya’s copyright.

A recent study by Kaspersky indicates that Kenya is now Africa’s easiest target for cyber criminals. According to the report, the East African country accounted for more than 1 out of every 2 million online attacks on the continent.

Irdeto, the world leader in digital platform security, estimated that content piracy cost government and the creative industry an estimated 50 billion US dollars globally. This illegal practice takes many forms across Africa and globally from pirate platforms, illegal screening and streaming, pirated DVDs and storage devices, cable and signal piracy among others.

The fight against copyright infringement in Kenya has received a landmark impetus after the High Court issued orders requiring Safaricom Plc and Jamii Telkom Limited to pull down and disable 141 sites that are suspected to be infringing on Multichoice Kenya’s copyright, as per section 35D (2) of the Copyright Act. The judge gave these orders as an interim measure to prevent further infringement of copyright before the matter is conclusively determined pending a full hearing of the suit on March 3, 2021. KECOBO and the Communications Authority (CA) are listed as interested parties in the suit.

This is music to the ears of the creative industry whose livelihoods are directly impacted by the proliferation of pirated content in Kenya and across the continent. Musicians, actors, content buyers and resellers lose millions of dollars due to the infringement of their copyright. The order is a significant victory for the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) which earlier in the year kicked off a multi-stakeholder awareness program dubbed Partners Against Piracy (PAP).

In a spirited bid to clamp down on the distribution of pirated content and protect copyright owners, KECOBO assembled a coalition of like-minded corporates, industry associations and individual rights holders to help fight the piracy menace countrywide. The campaign, dubbed Partners Against Piracy, also targets cybercrimes that involve deliberate efforts to destroy, disrupt, steal, alter or manipulate data stored on IT systems.

Unfortunately, the internet provides countless ways for hackers and pirates to enter proprietary IT systems and networks. Detailed data on frequency, tactics and results of cybersecurity incidents are in their infancy in Africa, but tracking services are growing.

Though recent reports and data provided on cybercrime, including content piracy over the internet, has identified Kenya as a hotspot, most Kenyans remain unaware of the unintended consequences of their piracy activities and the harm it causes to communities, consumers and law-abiding citizens.

Earlier this year, a report by the Communications Authority of Kenya, showed there was an increase in cybercrimes attributed to an increasingly high number of malware threats, web application attacks, system misconfiguration and online abuse.

This ruling is the first time that a Kenyan court has sanctioned takedown notices as provided for under section 35B of the Copyright Act as amended in 2019. The law under this section provides: “A person whose rights have been infringed by content to which access is being offered by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) may request by way of a takedown notice that the ISP removes the infringing content.”

However, even with the rapid growth of cybercrime, prosecution of culprits is still low and slow with only seven percent of cases successfully prosecuted, according to a 2018 cybercrimes report by Serianu. In Kenya, even when cybercriminals are arrested, the penalties are often lenient compared to other jurisdictions. 

The landmark order obtained by KECOBO is a sequel to another victory against piracy when the organization dismantled a suspected criminal network of copyright infringers, mainly responsible for pirating top international football leagues in Kenya.

In a coordinated clampdown with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), KECOBO has previously nabbed distributors of pirated material who have been gnawing at the profits of content creators. The court order issued at the Milimani Hight Court now put on notice copyright infringers as the board adopts a zero-tolerance approach to copyright breaches, with a clear mandate of fighting for the greater good of all creative professionals.

More News