By Perpetua Mwangi
The world dedicates 26th April every year as a day to celebrate intellectual property (IP) in a bid to increase its general understanding. The 2015 World IP Day theme ‘Get up, Stand up. For music’ could not have come at a more opportune time. Music has a long history and today there is a huge musical pool from where one can choose and take delight. The advent of the digital era has made music available to billions worldwide literally at their fingertips.
On April 25th 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya preceded the world in celebrating World Intellectual Property Day 2015. No amount of words can do justice to describe the pomp and colour, entertainment and IP information that characterized Kenya’s celebrations. The events were kicked off by the lovely Master of Ceremonies Ms. June Gachui who is not only a seasoned IP practitioner from the IP consultancy firm, JGIP Consultants but is also a well known artiste in Kenya’s music and theatre scenes. The Executive Director (ED) of Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), the host institution for the celebrations officially opened the event with a crash course on IP in Swahili; ‘Siku ya kimataifa ya haki za uvumbuzi’. No doubt, the KECOBO ED picked up this lingo after spending the previous day with the Copyright Society of Tanzania during their own World IP Day 2015 celebrations. The day’s events began with an informative presentation on copyright (haki miliki) and related rights by KECOBO Senior Legal Counsel Catherine Bunyassi which provided a thorough overview of the copyright law landscape in Kenya including highlighting some of the recent amendments to the Copyright Act such as the 2015 Copyright Regulations published in Legal Notice 26 dated 20 March 2015. Thereafter Kenya Industrial Property Office (KIPI) made a presentation on ‘Trademarks and branding’ (alama ya biashara) which discussed the role of industrial property particularly trademarks in the monetization of musical talent. It was quite interesting to learn that “KENYA BOYS CHOIR”, “PAPA SHIRANDULA” and many others are registered trademarks at KIPI; which was quite an important revelation to those in the creative industry in Kenya who learned that aside Copyright, Trademark is another IP right that they can capitalize on in the marketing of their works.
Throughout the afternoon, the audience was treated to lively performances from ‘Sauti Academy’ who graced the event with entertainment in the form of music, dance and poetry. Fresh talent from Sauti Academy entertained the forum with live performances by Swiga and Jean. One of the poems was quite significant as it reminded us of the importance of remaining as one especially following the ill-fated Garissa attack. During the event, ‘Sauti Academy’ was awarded with WIPO’s Enterprise Trophy which was presented by KECOBO. MCSK CEO took the floor and highlighted how talent in the music industry can be monetized. He took the chance to introduce the CMOs currently in operation in Kenya: MCSK, PRiSK, KAMP and KOPIKEN who all represent the owners and rights holders of distinct music-related works in Kenya. The MCSK CEO highlighted a key milestone in the music industry namely the launch of an initiative by MCSK in partnership with Standard Group. This initiative is centred around “Pata Beat” (which loosely translates to “Find the Beat”) an application developed by local tech firm Bernsoft which was launched on the 24th April 2015. This app is a first of its kind in Kenya allows artists to monitor how their music is being downloaded. Therefore it is hoped that this initiative will address calls from the music fraternity for greater transparency and distribution of royalties.
During the Q&A sessions, members of the public in attendance were given the opportunity to ask questions to a distinguished panel of Kenyan IP practitioners who are part of an IP forum called “IPCheckin”. The questions from the audience ranged from registration of trademarks to negotiating contracts, registration of Copyright, use of folklore and works in the public domain to create new works as well as the interpretation of section 30A of the Copyright Act. Bernsoft CEO Bernard Kioko gave an enlightening presentation on the opportunities for musicians in the digital space which is taking center stage in the way artists are earning revenue. Some of the opportunities mentioned for artists to capitalize on their musical works included allowing use of musical works as ring-back tones, availing song downloads on platforms such as iTunes, digital synchronization and the digital printing of lyrics. Like all good things, the celebrations had to come to an end at about 7 pm in the night. All in all, it was a fruitful World IP Day for Kenya. The celebrations matched the theme and the discussions are a clear indication that Kenya is well poised to harness IP as an important tool for socio-economic development.
Editor’s Note: In addition to the event in Nairobi highlighted above, there was a simultaneous event in the coastal city of Mombasa to celebrate World IP Day 2015 – Liz Lenjo has all the details here.