Global sports bodies raise concern over Kenya’s Copyright Amendment Bill

A coalition of global sports bodies has through an open letter to the Kenyan government, expressed concern about the Copyright Amendment Bill currently before parliament, and its potential impact on the availability of international sports content in Kenya.

The Sports Rights Owner Coalition (SROC), an alliance of more than 50 international and national sport bodies, with membership drawn from some of the world’s leading sport codes and competitions, submitted the letter to the government. SROC comprises the English Premier League, the FA Cup, Wimbledon, MotoGP, and the Rugby World Cup.

In the recent letter, signed by Chairman Mark Lichtenstein, the SROC says that its members are “extremely concerned” at changes that will be made to Kenya’s Copyright Act should the Copyright Amendment Bill become law.

The SROC is particularly worried about proposals to repeal sections 35B, 35C and 35D of the Copyright Act, which allow for take-down notices issued to internet-based service provider platforms which enable content piracy to flourish.

A take-down notice is a widely used remedy employed by copyright owners worldwide, compelling online platforms to rapidly remove content from their websites if it is suspected that the content infringes copyright.

The Kenya Copyright Board (KeCOBO), the champion of the Partners Against Piracy (PAP) initiative, has come out in support of the SROC letter.

“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,” says Edward Sigei, the KeCOBO Executive Director.

“Across the world, they help to safeguard the intellectual property rights of sports rights owners. If rights owners cannot request that pirated sports content is taken down immediately, that will threaten the future of live sports broadcasts in Kenya. Why would international sports media allow sports broadcasts in Kenya, if they have no way of stopping them from being pirated!”

Kenya’s 2019 Copyright Amendment Bill, incorporates principles from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Internet Treaties of 1996, aimed at preventing unauthorised access to and use of creative works. Takedown notices are among these principles and are necessary tools to enforce copyright protections for rights owners and distributors.

If the Amendment Bill is passed into law, Kenya will be out of step with global trends, the average Kenyan will lose out on great sports entertainment. A further negative consequence of this Amendment Bill passing would be the reputational and economic investment quagmire it would create is jeopardising Kenya’s ability to renew participation in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Agreement (AGOA) program, as one of the additional provisions of renewal requires a demonstrated commitment to copyright protection as a prerequisite to signing. Repealing section 35 of the Copyright Act, would do the exact opposite and threaten investor confidence.

The SROC points out that in Europe, policy makers are strengthening not weakening the effectiveness of take-down notices, particularly regarding live content. New proposals to protect live content more effectively in Europe are expected in the first half of 2022.

“Were the Copyright Amendment Bill to be enacted, it could have devastating consequences for both the Kenyan economy and Kenyan consumers,” says the SROC letter. “Rights holders from sport and other creative industries are extremely unlikely to license their content in a jurisdiction that effectively legitimises piracy. Consumers would therefore be deprived from watching their favourite sports and television shows, and leave Kenya isolated on the global copyright stage.”

The coalition – which includes the English FA, UEFA, the IAAF, and the International Tennis Federation – goes on to ask that the proposed new law be urgently reconsidered “so as not to harm Kenyan consumers and threaten the availability of sports and entertainment content in Kenya.”


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