A meeting between the Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo) and its stakeholders in the publishing sector in mid-December was one in a series of meetings between members of the creative and knowledge industry and the enforcing institution.
More than 40 stakeholders (ranging from writers, publishers, media companies, booksellers, government agencies and university-affiliated institutions) attended, whereby it was established that it would be important to lead a strong awareness-creation campaign directed at schools, universities and the public at large.
Mr Simon Sossion, the vice-chairman of the Kenya Publishers Association and chair of the association’s anti-piracy subcommittee, reported that “counterfeiting has become a multi-billion shilling industry. It is part of the cultural orientation of freebies; people reaping where they have not sown. We have come here to put our money where our mouth is and we must not be afraid to act.”
He cited ignorance of the law, lethargy and lack of forthrightness by enforcers and a slow and reluctant judicial system which on occasion appeared compromised by pirates, as factors contributing to the continuation of the vices.
Author Kinyanjui Kombani decried the lack of respect for intellectual property, recalling how Miguna Miguna’s book, Peeling Back the Mask, was illegally circulated widely in PDF form upon its publication.
He spoke of the campaign writers and publishers had been planning on the WhatsApp group ‘Creatives United’, and that the hashtag that had been settled on for the campaign was #DoTheRightThing.
Vicky Khasandi, vice-chairperson at Kopiken, the copyright lobby, cited cases where copyright protection had been done well, including in Ghana, Malawi and South Africa.
Mr Sossion disclosed that in collaboration with the government, publishers were in the process of launching a full-proof anti-counterfeit solution which would instantly drive all pirates out of business.
He a reiterated that value added tax slapped on books by the government since 2013 had rendered genuine books very expensive, thereby making the cheap and low quality counterfeit versions attractive to hard-pressed consumers.
He divulged that KPA had held discussions with Kenya Revenue Authority to explore ways in which KRA could intervene to impound pirated books being imported from offshore destinations. He spoke of the interesting contradiction whereby the VAT charged on books in Kenya had made books published in Kenya cheaper when exported.