CIPIT Hosts Novel Moot Court Competition on IT Law in East Africa


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The Winners of the CIPIT Moot Competition, Uganda Christian University.

CIPIT’s bi-annual moot competition aims to be innovative and to attract teams from across East Africa, and the 2018 edition was no exception. This year’s edition was particularly significant being the first moot in Sub-Saharan Africa to focus on Information Technology(IT) Law. The 2018 moot problem addressed the complexities of innovation, privacy and data protection in jurisdictions that operate in a legal vacuum with respect to data privacy. Therefore, participating students were able to interact with the topics of privacy and data protection and grapple with the ambiguities these cutting-edge issues pose in the legal field. This was also an excellent opportunity for CIPIT to highlight the trickle- down effect of innovations to the recurring concerns of data protection, and to nurture the interest of the young generation in IT law and policy.

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Developing a Career in Intellectual Property & IT Law

Guest post by Lucy Wyndham

As the global digital sphere expands, so too do intellectual property infractions. Brand power is more accentuated than ever, leading to greater levels of trademark appropriation. What’s more, new research by Wharton shows that strong intellectual property protection benefits the ‘small guy’. Essentially, protecting new trademarks brings growth for small businesses.

As a result, intellectual property and information technology (IT) legal professionals are in great demand and can expect generous remuneration; Payscale suggests that the potential pay ceiling can reach USD $198,000. Furthermore, as small businesses develop their own systems, having legal assurance embedded will be key to maintaining growth. For a graduate, there is a clear path into the discipline.

Developing and displaying the necessary skills

Communication, problem-solving, determination and natural assertiveness are the core skills that all legal professionals need to possess. For an IP/IT lawyer, it is to your benefit to lay claim to a few other key areas. Firstly, while all lawyers need to stay up to date with law, IP/IT areas are a particularly fast-moving space; accordingly, legal professionals specializing in the field should have a comprehensive knowledge of online resources, and a talent for preempting what big changes will impact a company.  The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force in May this year is set to have impacts across Africa and the wider world. According to Thomson Reuters, compliance is high on the agenda; both consultant and in-house lawyers will be busy. When constructing an application, or formalizing your resume, ensure the relevant skills are clearly highlighted.

Understanding the job market

The good news about the IP/IT job market is that it is wide open. As Daily Nation outlined in a report concerning business best practices, there aren’t many intellectual property focused lawyers operating in Kenya, let alone digitally native ones. However, the Kenyan digital startup industry is absolutely booming: startups scooped half of all of Africa’s startup funding in the first 6 months of 2018, totaling nearly USD $50m, according to Business Today. With such a huge expansion in digital businesses, there is a clear market for expert legal advice that will also help to protect the industry, guaranteeing its onward profitability and the reputation of legal experts in the field.

The potential future

IP/IT is a fascinating and rapidly growing area of law. The nature of intellectual property laws are not necessarily set in stone when it comes to digital applications – take, for example, Apistry v Amazon, 2013, in which the case was dismissed in favor of Amazon, with the court finding that the patents involved were ‘abstract ideas’ given their internet-based application. As the world becomes more and more globalized and internet usage continues apace, it’s likely that definitions will shift and previously dismissed claims will become more relevant. The role of the legal professional in the field will only become more valuable and more important.

Moving into intellectual property and information management law is an exciting way to further your career. In Kenya, with businesses booming into the digital age, there are countless opportunities. Seizing is a case of determination and honing the right skills.



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Goodies galore.

The Matter of Mangala & WAP -vs- The Guacamole Republic of Avocado (GRA)

As promised, here is the account of the recently concluded CIPIT ICT Moot. Held every two years, the competition attracts teams across East Africa. It is the only one in the mooting calendar this part of Africa that has information technology and intellectual property as subject matters. This allows competitors to engage with contemporary issues, as was the case in this year’s edition. Data protection has not been legislated extensively in Kenya. The resulting lacuna forces the litigant to think outside the box and try to find viable and practical solutions to technology related problems oft outside the purview of lawyers.

Day One

“There will be winners, and there will be losers…” were the words of the Dean of the Strathmore Law School to end his address to the participating teams during the second biennial CIPIT moot. This author is sure that nothing rung truer in the minds of the eager young faces looking at him.

The Dean of the Strathmore Law School, Dr. Luis Franceschi delivering his address.
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Experiences during the 2018 CIPIT Moot


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The University of Nairobi Team, from left: Jackline Chepng’eno Sang, Kanyangi Esther Nyachia, and Kanyangi Leah Aoko.

From the Editor:

CIPIT held its biennial moot on 11th and 12th of October 2018. In total there were 13 teams in attendance, with about half of the teams hailing from Uganda. In the coming weeks, the CIPIT team will provide a full play by play account of events. Before that however, we would like to acknowledge one of the teams that participated.

The University of Nairobi Team comprising of the Kanyangi twins (so any confusion in the above image is regretted but understandable) and Jackline Sang wrote to us, grateful for the wonderful experience they had during the moot. Truth be told, it is the CIPIT team that is in gratitude for their attendance and their thoughtful letter. Here is their account of the moot, viva voce…

“It was a great privilege to participate in the recently concluded CIPIT 2018 moot competition. From the very onset it was exciting to engage with teams from universities around the country and Uganda. The moot concerned the right to privacy and data protection. Of specific emphasis was the disclosure of health data to third parties and the use of such information to peddle advertisements on the accounts of Wika virus victims.

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The Digital Freedom of Association

By Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls ( [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Galma Godana


The freedom of association has traditionally been defined as the right to be with other people for a legal reason, cause or purpose, without interference.[1] However, with the advent of modern technology, today’s emergent associations differ in important ways from traditional political and social organizations.

Recent global events particularly those associated with the Arab Spring form prime examples of the need to examine and analyze the legal protections afforded to associations in the digital age and whether such protections are sufficient in the wake of emerging threats.

Thus, an analysis of the commonalities and the differing aspects of the contrasting viewpoints of the subject right as well as the impacts of this is well justified in light of the changing context within which the right is exercised and indeed with a view to building a wholesome definition having considered all relevant factors.


Freedom of association has commonly been associated with the notions of physical meetings and geographical proximity. However, advances in modern communication technology have greatly shifted the context of this right and led to a number of differing aspects with its traditional understanding. The prime difference consists in the non-requirement of geographical proximity. Previously, participation of one’s associational freedom often meant attendance of in person meetings. Conversely, in the present day, one can participate in the activities of an association without the need for physical attendance or geographical proximity due to the relatively inexpensive nature of internet connection. Global events ranging from the political uprisings that swept across the Arab world to the Occupy Wall Street Movement have highlighted the use of digital technology in the exercise of the subject right.[2]

Another key differing factor is the platform on which the right is exercised. In its traditional understanding, the right is often exercised in public spaces such as city squares whereas the digital right extends to digital platforms such as discussion forums and chat rooms. This view was supported by the APC which stated that the right should be construed to include any space where people can meet, including online spaces.[3]

A logical import from the differences highlighted is the central role of modern technology as a conduit to the exercise of the digital right. This view is reiterated by the 2012 report of the former Special Rapporteur where he called upon States “to recognize that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association can be exercised through new technologies, including through the Internet”.[4] This view was also highlighted by the Human Rights Council in its Resolution 24/5 in which it:

“Reiterated the important role of new information and communications technologies in enabling and facilitating the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association…”

However, these differences do not constitute a comprehensive redefinition because of the commonalities shared such as the similar nature of the associations in both conceptions. As per the ‘Guidelines on Freedom of Association’ an association is “an organized, independent, not-for-profit body with an institutional structure based on the voluntary grouping of persons with a common purpose.”[5] Online associations fulfill each of these requirements therefore enjoying protection even in the traditional understanding.


In view of the differences as well as the commonalities of the contrasting interpretations of the subject right one can reasonably deduce that the digital right can be defined as the right to voluntarily join with others through collective action based on a common purpose through the use of modern communication technology without interference.

Perhaps an interpretational challenge in defining the subject right also owes to its confusion with the related freedom of assembly. Freedom of assembly secures the right of people to meet for any purpose connected with government whereas associational freedom protects the activities and composition of such meetings.[6] 


Digital technology has transformed the ways in which civic and political associations are formed and operate. Political and civic “work” in society is increasingly performed not by traditionally organized and well-defined associations but by decentralized networks of individuals. As such, online association has opened the door for a more effective advocacy of Human Rights issues which may be dangerous in authoritarian states and for the faster aggregation of resources for community development.

However, the same features of modern communications technology that enhance associational freedom also crucially enhance the threat posed by relational surveillance. Relational surveillance can loosely be defined as surveillance that makes extensive use of digital communications in order to determine the associative groups to which an individual belongs.[7] Comprehensive surveillance has the unfortunate propensity to cause exploitation of vulnerable groupings in society. Indeed surveillance also highlights the occasionally involuntary nature of online association since it uncovers exploratory activities such as inquiries or admission into social media groups which could mark an individual as a “member” of an association before express consent has been made. Additionally, the networking tool of the internet is useful not only to legitimate civic groups but also to criminal and terrorist groups as they can also benefit from the pseudonymity of digital association.[8]

Lastly, the central role of data in modern communications technology and continuous data collection often leads to the threat of profiling. It is no secret that platform providers retain consumer data often using it for targeted advertising purposes.[9] However, the emergent use of data as a value tool whereby data is sold to advertisers and other firms has led to widespread privacy concerns highlighted best by the Cambridge Analytica scandal.[10]

Given that the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act’s chief focus is with regard to the content of the data rather than the collection and use of data and the relative lack of comprehensive data protection legislation outside the Constitution, it would seem that the local laws are ill equipped to deal with the issue of surveillance. Therefore, there is need for legislation to regulate and provide oversight on;

  1. circumstances under which platform providers can collect and use data,
  2. circumstances under which platform providers can share such data with government agencies and other 3rd parties.


Although modern communications technology has greatly enhanced associational freedom for many informal associations, it has also facilitated the emergence of new threats such as that of surveillance. This expansion of the scope of the subject right has meant that current legislation is insufficient in the wake of new threats. Therefore, it is imperative to review and update relevant legislation in order to comprehensively address these concerns.

[1] on 26th July 2018

[2] on 5th August 2018

[3] on 26th July 2018

[4] on 26th July 2018

[5] on 26th July 2018

[6] on 26th July 2018

[7] on 26th July 2018

[8] on 26th July 2018

[9] on 5th August 2018

[10] on 26th July 2018

Digital Right: The Freedom of Assembly


The right to freedom of assembly has been widely accepted as a necessity in a functioning democracy as assemblies are used to express and defend different views.[1] This right has justified holding of political rallies, picketing, demonstrations and meeting or barazas held to discuss issues in the society, with the condition that any of such is done peacefully.[2] It is so essential that even the modes of protests have changed with time with online protests becoming more common. This has led to social media being viewed as a potent tool in aiding access to information as well as enhancing the right of the freedom of assembly. This has resulted in the need to justify the exercise of assembly online and the role the government has in safeguarding online assemblies.

So what constitutes and forms online assembly? What role does the government play in safeguarding this right? What constitutes an infringement and how can this be mitigated? This article seeks to answer these questions by first setting out the background of the right to the freedom of assembly in the traditional sense, then exploring the legal framework and case law, which set out the duties the State owes and how this right is applicable to online assemblies.


Online assembly is a controversial issue especially when it comes to online protests. This is especially with the disruptive nature and wide reach online protests have. Discussing the legality of online assemblies is necessary as this will determine whether governments are justified in shutting down the internet or censoring content online. This involves discussing the role the right to access information plays in online assemblies.

The right to the freedom of assembly in the traditional sense is composed of two elements that aid it: free speech and the right to associate.[3] It finds its roots in “Tavern Talk” in America in the mid-18th Century, where the biggest revolutions such as the famous Boston Tea Party were found to begin with the political discussion that happened in taverns. The taverns offered the Americans a place to vent of their common issues and discuss matters affecting them. Given the large pool of men visiting these taverns it was often easy to mobilise people to protest against the then British rule.[4] It foreseeable that the American legislator saw it important to protect free speech, freedom of association and the freedom of assembly in the First Amendment of the American Constitution. In fact, Congress in discussing what constitutes the freedom of assembly, found free speech and freedom of association as integral to fulfilment of this right.[5]

This notion has been widely accepted in the Kenyan context. The right to the freedom of assembly is first and foremost a constitutional right, which is the supreme law of the land. it further finds its routes in our democracy, which is the exercise of the people will through elected representatives.[6] The courts have interpreted the right to the freedom of as an end , with free speech and the right to associate being the means. The courts assert that free assembly requires the free flow of opinions and ideas…[7]

What is Online Assembly?

Online assembly in this article refers to the gathering of people on virtual platforms in groups so as to express their views and at times for the purpose of criticising the government. The nature of online assemblies is unique as it involves the sharing of information across a digital platform in order to mobilise internet users to take part in virtual protests. As such, online assembly has various elements unique to it: the online platform, the role access of information plays and the viral effect brought about by the network.

The disruptive nature that online assemblies have had has seen governments in most States taking action to try and control them through stringent rules as well as complete media shutdowns. This has led to push back as it was seen as an infringement on the citizenries’ right to access information and the right to the freedom of assembly.[8]

States are now required to ensure there is access to the internet as people have the right to gather online and express their opinions.[9] The state should therefore refrain form shutting down the internet without just cause.[10] There should additionally be no restrictions on content and government surveillance.[11] This is to ensure free speech is not policed by government and that it is protected.

It goes without saying that online assembly does have its dark side. This is because of the tools internet activists used such as hacking and the use of computers whose owners don’t know they are infected. This is illegal as one cannot use someone’s personal resources for your political purpose without their consent.[12] As such, the State does have the duty to draft frameworks to ensure online assembly is not abused.


There is a need to protect the right to online assembly as it has resulted in a lot of positive changes in society. An instance of this is the profound effect the #MeToo movement has had in addressing the need for stronger anti-rape laws. Online assembly has also has also played a profound role in advancing for the protection of citizens against violation of human rights, as seen in the Tunisian Revolution.[13] These are just a few examples of the numerous occasions where digital media has been used to advance for legitimate causes.

In light of this, the State has to balance the need to maintain public order with the right to online assembly, which is achievable without shutting down the internet or censoring the internet. The State can take measures to ensure that those who abuse online assembly are penalised through cyber laws whilst still ensuring people can freely gather and express their opinions online.

[1], 14th June 2018

[2] Wilson Olai and 5 Others v Attorney General and 2 Others, [2017] eKLR

[3]  Inazu J., Virtual Assembly, Cornell Law Review, Volume 98, 2013

[4] Baylen J. Linnekin , “Tavern Talk” & the Origins of the Assembly Clause: Tracing the First Amendment’s Assembly Clause Back to its Roots in Colonial Taverns

[5] Baylen J. Linnekin , “Tavern Talk” & the Origins of the Assembly Clause: Tracing the First Amendment’s Assembly Clause Back to its Roots in Colonial Taverns

[6], 14th June 2018

[7] Wilson Olai and 5 others v Attorney General and 2 others, High Court at Nairobi [2017] eKLR

[8], 25th August 2018

[9] HRC Resolution 21/16

[10]The Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly: Best Practices Fact Sheet, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai (published Nov. 2014)

[11]Freedom of Assembly and Association Online in India, Malaysia and Pakistan: Trends, Challenges and Recommendations , V.Gayathry, APC IMPACT,

[12], 25th August, 2018

[13], 25th August 2018

Defining the Digital Right to Privacy

*Lyndah Tugee & Mercy Kingori

A little history

Brandeis and Warren trace the origin of the right to privacy in the U.S. back to the 1890s. They define privacy as the right to be let alone[1]. The right was first concerned with personal autonomy but it later evolved to cover the peoples’ personal information. A Privacy Act was enacted in 1974 to prevent unauthorized disclosure of personal information held by the federal government. Later on, other Acts including Financial Monetization Act 1999 and Fair Credit Reporting Act requiring financial institutions to provide customers with a privacy policy and to protect their personal financial information they had collected.[2] The right continues to extend its sphere of influence with the emergence of technology, which allows individuals to use, create and publish digital media or to access and use computers, devices or communication networks.[3]

Although Kenya does not have a rich history when it comes to privacy law as compared to the US, supposedly due to varying ages of the countries, there is an increasing interest in the right to privacy especially as applied in the digital sphere. The challenge, however, resides in defining the right to privacy in the digital era.

The Issue

The Constitution of Kenya provides for the right to privacy but it is not immediately apparent Article 31 appreciates the realities of the digital world where the right can be asserted over the communication and telecommunication networks.[4]

A report published by Privacy International highlights the intrusive nature of micro-lending apps, which continue to demand more and more personal data in a bid to define what they term as a financial identity in a bid to determine a person’s credit worthiness.[5] The report studies the nature of information collected to create such identity.[6] One digital lender, Branch, collects call logs, contacts, SMS messages including M-Pesa, GPS location, the repayment patterns of one’s friends for Branch loans etc.[7] Most of these digital lenders are startups whose exit strategy  involves being bought out by another company. It is not clear to what extent to customers will have control over their data once the startup is sold to new owners.

The case of Kenya Human Rights Commission v Communications Authority of Kenya & 4 others [2018] eKLR discusses the use of a Device Management System (DMS) to tap into the devices of mobile phone users. The device was mainly meant to monitor illegal international calls between Kenya and Rwanda. Nevertheless, the High Court ruled that the device would infringe on the consumer right to privacy because the monitoring would be done in the absence of orders to collect information of a private nature.

Why does it Matter?

The foregoing cases bring out a number of challenges that need to be resolved if we are to entrench the right to privacy in the digital space. To begin with, where there are no mechanisms to regulate the nature of information collected, the autonomy of the individuals from whom such information is collected may not be respected. In addition, entities who unwittingly collecting significant volumes of data create a significant risk when their technical systems are breached.[8] Moreover, it is important to make sure that customers can always exercise their data protection rights where a company changes ownership.

The Way Forward

From the aforementioned, certain elements are necessary in defining the right to privacy. A digital right to privacy will be assured where the data subject can determine: a) who can collect their data, b) what data is collected, c) what data is not collected, d) and the nature consent required to collect certain kinds of data. This criterion derives from the legal doctrine of the right to informational self-determination in respect of right to privacy. It is the right of a person to determine the disclosure, and the use of their personal data.[9] The doctrine is in line with Westin’s definition of the right to privacy which he succinctly defines as “the right of the individual to decide what information about himself should be communicated to others and under what circumstances”.[10]  

[1] Samuel Warren, Louis Brandeis, ‘The Right to Privacy’, Harvard Law Review, Vol 4 No.5.

[2] <> as at 3rd August 2018.

[3] <> as at 19th August 2018.

[4] Article 31, Constitution of Kenya (2010): Every person has the right privacy, which  includes the right not to have – (a) their person, home or property searched, (b) their possessions seized, (c) information relating to their family or private affairs unnecessarily required or revealed, or (d) the privacy of their communications infringed.

[5] Privacy International, ‘Fintech: Privacy and Identity In the New Data-Intensive Financial Sector’, 2017.

[6] Privacy International, ‘Fintech: Privacy and Identity In the New Data-Intensive Financial Sector’, 2017

[7] Privacy International, ‘Fintech: Privacy and Identity In the New Data-Intensive Financial Sector’, 2017

[8] Crabtree A,’ Personal Data, Privacy and the Internet of Things: The Shifting Locus of Agency and Control’

[9] Rouvroy A, ‘The Right to Informational Self-Determination and the Value of Self-Development: Reassessing the Importance of Privacy for Democracy’ 2009.

[10] Westin A, ‘Privacy And Freedom’, 25 Washington and Lee Law Review, 1968.

Free Speech in the Digital Space

A striking postulation of free speech was developed in the 19th Century by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, supporters of John Locke. They defined the right as the freedom to “think what you would and speak what you thought”. This placed a strong emphasis on the citizens’ role in exercising the right as against an implied oppressor, the government.

Other postulations of the right intuit that there is a balance to be struck between the right expressed by the citizen and the right of others. Between citizens, the government is charged with ensuring no one infringes the right of another. The overt regulation of speech amounts to the prevention from: holding an opinion, receiving information to facilitate creation of said opinion, or the dissemination of information that would allow the creation of opinions. The state would in this instance curb the spread of information it perceives as undermining its rule or that which infringes the rights of others.

The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) posits freedom of speech as consisting two parts; a negative obligation on state organs, to deregulate speech and, a positive right, exercised by the public within the law. Subsequently, the right operates within two parameters as well: dissemination of information and expression of opinions that are vital for debate and transparency in democracies; and the censure of statements infringing the rights of others or abrogating order within the state. Two competing norms exist, individual autonomy versus the protection of collective goals, such as equality among persons.

Criticism of other persons should be conducted within the law. Hence, one must respect the rights and reputations of others. Are statements by errant bloggers protected by Kenya’s own free speech clause? Not quite, libellous statements are not granted legal protection.  Article 33 of the Constitution of Kenya (CoK) outlaws making of statements that disparage persons and their reputations.

Citizens should be able to oppose decisions made by their government, employer, municipal court or member of parliament. The CoK stipulates that public participation is an essential avenue for citizens to express their sentiments regarding governance. In democracies, elected representatives are not immune from critique. Their actions are scrutinised by a vigilant public, aware of state obligations.

Free Speech: Applicable mutatis mutandis in cyberspace?

Conceptualists of free speech had written their treatises prior to the internet and mass media. Thus, contemporary issues such as jurisdictional conflicts over online offences were unforeseen. Free speech should evolve to meet these demands.

The right should supersede the classic two-party consideration; the government and the citizen. Social media platforms and internet service providers are new participants in the rights matrix. They curate more data than ever before and have the power to deactivate accounts spreading misinformation. While international case law indicates that social media is an arena for free speech, administrators should be obliged to curate the content on their sites and ensure there are no rights infringements.

Kenyan courts applied principles of tort to malfeasance on social media, to regulate the platform. This approach is only partially viable; the “obligation to curate” must be placed on administrators. The main impediment to this concern is practicality. Twitter cannot monitor its 335 million active user’s pages. Surveillance on that scale would broach a myriad of privacy concerns.

A possible solution could be mandating platforms to introduce a complaints system, allowing users to report rights violations. Administrators responding to the report provide initial adjudication on whether the offending content contravenes internal policies. Illegality however, mandates administrators to assist municipal law enforcement with information pertinent to investigations.

Concluding, digital free speech may be defined as:

The freedom to express a factual representation or opinion on an online platform. The right precludes the following: defamatory statements, hate speech, cyber-bullying, or misrepresentations. The custodians of the right include the government and at initial phases, administrators of online platforms. These custodians are obliged to respond expeditiously to any reports of illegal activity or activity flouting platform policies.

Driverless Cars in Kenya: Anticipations for IT Law

*A guest post by Lucy Wyndham

Kenya’s traffic situation is dire with deaths due to road traffic crashes estimated between 3,000 to 13,000 each year. Based on 2017 stats of the National Transport & Safety Authority (NTSA), pedestrians are the most vulnerable groups representing 39% of fatalities. Another 22% of victims are passengers, 12% are drivers while casualties due to motorbikes reached 18%.  The reasons for these are many including poor driving behavior such as speeding, breaking traffic rules including talking on mobile phones or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Overloading vehicles, not wearing seatbelts, poorly maintained vehicles and bad surface roads contribute to the rise in road traffic accidents.

Driverless Cars Can Benefit Kenya

In his study of road accidents in Kenya, Odero concludes that 85% of road mishaps was caused by human errors. Collisions between vehicles and pedestrians were the worse. Utility vehicles and buses were involved in 62% of accidents that lead to injuries. Faulty or poorly-maintained vehicles were also to blame. The costs of these accidents are estimated at Sh300 billion or $2.9 billion a year according to the 2015 NTSA report.

The introduction of driverless cars can significantly reduce the rate of accidents in the country. But before these autonomous cars could be driven on Kenyan streets, extensive testing needs to be done. Moreover, once on the road, there are other factors that play before deployment can even be considered. One of these is the IT law.

Driverless cars are dependent on the development of autonomous driving technologies. The biggest issue that crops up once an autonomous vehicle is driven is: who is responsible for the car and its actions? Is it the owner of the vehicle, the manufacturer or the creator of the autonomous driving system?

Autonomous Vehicles Can Save Lives

Before we can tackle the question, let us look at how testing of AVs has evolved. Without a doubt, driverless cars are big business. That is why automakers and technology giants are scrambling to get a big piece of the action. The likes of Waymo, Uber, Tesla and Apple have invested heavily in developing autonomous vehicles that are ready for deployment on the road.

In an ideal world, these vehicles are safer. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are fitted with 360 degree cameras that allow them to see from all angles. They can use LIDAR technology which is a detection system using laser enabling them to see better and further.  AVs can plot their course based on real time information so they can also change their routes and adjust their speed. In short, they can see better than the human eye.

Safe Testing Is Critical

The Uber test vehicle that killed a pedestrian in March this year suggested that the technology is not fully developed. According to the police report, the Uber car failed to identify the victim as a pedestrian and did nothing to avoid hitting her. The human operator who was inside the AV was also apparently watching a video before the crash occurred. In another incident, a Tesla Model X SUV crashed into a road barrier and killed its driver. It was on auto pilot mode. These accidents tell us that more safe testing needs to be done before the technology can be considered roadworthy.

There is also no existing legal framework that puts people or entities liable for accidents and deaths that may occur due to failures of AVs. While some countries are in the process of putting laws and regulations in place before driverless vehicles are put in circulation, there are still many snags that need to be untangled.  For now, safe road testing is a top priority along with legislation, local zoning and stringent testing requirements.

Implications for the Kenya’s Road and Traffic

Chaotic Kenyan roads are even more of a challenge for AV testing. Not only are there more humans on the road, there are also cyclists, motor bikers and even animals. Driverless cars will have to learn to navigate around so many obstacles. Perhaps, this is also where they might make the biggest difference as hectic cities are places where the most collisions happen claiming more lives.

There are many benefits of autonomous vehicles for humans and the environment. However, safe testing of their capability on roads should be further enhanced. In addition, regulatory measures and a legal framework must be in place before they circulate in traffic.

Is Browsing Copyrighted Material Online Legal? The Case of: PRCA v NLA (2013)

The Internet has fundamentally altered the manner in which copyrighted
works are created, distributed and accessed. The on-demand access to and transmission of works online has introduced novel methods of exploitation of copyright works not hitherto envisaged by the law. Copyright laws world wide are evolving to address the legal issues arising from this rapid technological development. For example, the European Union’s Information Society Directive (InfoSoc) 2001 was enacted within this context, to offer a high level of copyright protection to authors in the EU.

Unfortunately, Kenya’s Copyright regime has not yet caught up with these rapid technological developments and their attendant legal issues. For example, the Copyright Act does not provide an exception from copyright infringement in the case of  reproduction that is temporary, transient or part of a technological process, as is seen in  use of cookies & cache storage, both which are vital to the Internet’s operation.  

Hyperlinks, which are online network components that redirect users to another website  when they click, tap or hover on it, came under scrutiny in the European Union in the case; Public Relations Consultants Association Limited (PRCA) v Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) C 360/13 (2013).

The PRCA, an association of public relations professionals, used a media monitoring service provided by Meltwater Limited to monitor online press reports concerning or relating to their clients. The NLA, representing the interests of newspapers i.e. the copyright holders of the published reports, took the view that the PRCA was required to obtain authorisation from the copyright holders for receiving the online media monitoring service offered by Meltwater. After both the High Court and Court of Appeal of England & Wales ruled in favour of the NLA, the PRCA instituted an appeal in the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court, which referred the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

The main issue for consideration before the CJEU was whether the copies of the copyrighted material on the user’s computer screen and the copies in the internet ‘cache’ fell under the conditions of Article 5(1) of the InfoSoc Directive. This Article provides that an act of reproduction is exempted from the reproduction right provided for in Article 2 of the InfoSoc Directive, on condition that:

– it is temporary;

– it is transient or incidental;

– it is an integral and essential part of a technological process.

Central to the determination of this issue was not merely if onscreen displays and Internet cache copies are transient or temporary, but if the end user (e.g. PRCA) infringes on copyright by making of temporary copies that allows them to view the copyrighted material.

With respect to the first criterion of Article 5(1) of the InfoSoc Directive, the Court held that onscreen and cached copies of copyrighted works were temporary as the former were automatically deleted when the user exited from the website that they were viewing and the latter were often automatically replaced by other content depending on the cache’s capacity and the extent of the users internet use. It also found that the second criterion applied as onscreen and cached copies of copyrighted works were transient as the former is automatically deleted by the computer when the user exits the website and thus terminates the technological process used to view that site, and the latter were incidental as internet users could not create cached copies independently of their visit to a particular website or beyond the technological process used to view the site.

The third criterion of Article 5(1) however has direct implications on the functionality of the Internet and the court’s decision in this regard is particularly important. The Court held that on-screen and cached copies are created and deleted solely as a result of the technological process used to access websites. The reproduction as such is as such crucial in enabling users to access websites and subsequently use the Internet as a whole. Furthermore, the Court recognized the fact that the Internet would be unable to function without the creation of cached copies due to the huge volume of data transmitted online. As such, the reproduction is an integral part of the technological process as stipulated by Article 5(1) and it would be as such unjust to require the copyright holder’s authorization when browsing and viewing articles online.

The Court in PRCA v NLA (2013) also noted that the mere viewing or reading of an article in its physical form had hitherto never been an infringement in either English or EU Law. It would therefore not make sense to prohibit the mere viewing of articles online as online content is more often than not copyrighted and Internet users would become infringers if they required licenses to view content which they would inadvertently come across online. Copyright law should therefore not be used as a tool to impede Internet users’ right to browse content online freely.

Ultimately, on screen displays are transient and incidental and are an integral part of the process of browsing the Internet. Had NLA’s argument for the requirement of a license so that they could charge browsers to read content online prevailed, there would have been far reaching negative consequences as to the accessibility to the Internet by EU citizens.

While the legality of linking ‘free’ copyrighted material online, has not yet been explored in Kenyan courts, it is likely that  the courts shall recognise that transient and incidental ‘copying’ that occurs in the operation of the Internet does not infringe on copyright holders’ exclusive reproduction right under section 35 of the Copyright Act (cap 130).  

Copyright law should allow development and operation of new technologies while striking fair balance between copyright holders’ and the technologies’ users’ rights. Kenyan courts’ also have a duty to strike this balance. PRCA v NLA (2013) would in such cases be instrumental not only in its central finding but also in its compelling illustration of the fact that the operation of copyright online is inextricably tied to the accessibility of the Internet. This case also underscores the need for a review of the Copyright Act (Cap 130), in response to the unique challenges wrought by the operation of copyright in the digital age.