The Kenyan High Court has upheld a permanent injunction requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to block sports pirate websites that infringe on protected material.
Multichoice Kenya filed a lawsuit in November 2019 against Safaricom PLC and Jamii Telecom Limited, requesting that the ISPs restrict live sports streaming services on their networks. The High Court issued a temporary order to the ISPs to prohibit the allegedly infringing content on November 26, 2022, but it was quickly delayed by the Court of Appeal on Safaricom’s motion.
Hon. Justice Wilfrida Okwany found in her verdict that MultiChoice Kenya had properly issued valid take-down notices to the ISPs and that they should have complied with the same. She also discovered that the ISPs had not provided any legal justification for their inability to comply with the take-down demands.
ISPs have long resisted the takedown provisions in the Copyright (Amendment) Act, and have even sought to have them completely repealed from the Act.
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.”
“This is a red-letter day in the fight against piracy in Africa,” said MultiChoice Kenya Managing Director, Nancy Matimu. “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.”
According to Nancy, the case would have enormous implications for the content industry right across the continent.
“The Kenyan courts have sent a message to the rest of the world that we respect the right of content creators to earn a living from their work,” added Nancy.
Nancy feels that if governments in the rest of Africa followed Kenya’s lead, Africa’s standing as an investment partner would improve significantly.
“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.” Nancy said.
SuperSport has made significant financial commitments to secure and retain exclusive broadcast and transmission rights for the UEFA Super Cup, Championship, and Europa Leagues, as well as the English Premier League and La Liga in Kenya and other Sub-Saharan African countries. The frequent illicit broadcasting of their protected content over the internet continues to erode their earnings from paid-up subscriptions.
Safaricom requested and was granted 72 hours to comply with take-down notices when the verdict was delivered.