Sports pirating websites have suffered a blow after the High Court issued a permanent injunction compelling internet service providers (ISPs) to block them from infringing on copyrighted material.
In November 2019, Multichoice Kenya filed a suit against Safaricom PLC and Jamii Telecom Limited seeking to compel the ISPs to block live sports streaming sites on their networks.
Court had on November 26, 2021 issued a temporary order to the ISPs to block the internet providers but the order was stayed by the Court of Appeal on application by Safaricom.
While delivering the ruling, Justice Wilfrida Okwany found that MultiChoice Kenya had lawfully issued valid take down notices to the ISPs and they ought to have complied.
She further found that the ISPs have not given any lawful excuse for their failure to comply with the take down notices.
The court gave Safaricom 72 hours to comply with take-down notices.
The ISPs have long opposed the takedown provisions in the Copyright (Amendment) Act and had even sought to have the takedown provisions wholly repealed from the Act, 18 months after their coming into force.
According to Multichoice, SuperSport has made substantial financial investments to acquire and hold the exclusive broadcast and transmission rights for UEFA Super Cup, Championship and Europa Leagues, English Premier League and La Liga in Kenya and other sub-Saharan Africa countries.
The constant illegal broadcasting over the internet of their protected content continues to dent their company’s revenues from paid up subscriptions.
The resolution of the landmark case marks the first time that a Kenyan court has sanctioned takedown notices in terms of the Copyright Act as amended in 2019.
The amended Act states in section 35B (1) that, “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.”
According to MultiChoice Kenya Managing Director, Nancy Matimu, the ruling will have enormous implications for the content industry right across the continent.
“This is a red-letter day in the fight against piracy in Africa,” she said.
“We have been fighting for years to ensure that there are legal copyright protections, and that those protections are enforced. The court has reaffirmed the stance of the law that copyright must be protected.”
Ms Matimu said she remains hopeful that African countries will follow suit, by introducing legislation to protect artists, musicians, broadcasters and all content creators, to prevent their content being pirated and used illegally.
“This is a landmark ruling. With this verdict, Kenya is saying that any business looking to invest in Kenya can rest assured that their intellectual property will be protected.”