Over the years, copyright holders have tried a multitude of measures to curb online piracy, with varying levels of success.
Site blocking has emerged as one of the preferred solutions. While blocking measures are not bulletproof, the general idea is that they pose a large enough hurdle for casual pirates to choose legal options instead.
Courts in dozens of countries around the world have issued blocking orders. The first blockades were set up in Europe but countries in Asia and the Americas followed soon after. Africa has lagged behind a bit, but that’s starting to change as well.
Kenya’s High Court Issues Pirate Site Blocking Order
A few days ago, the High Court of Kenya approved a permanent injunction that requires local ISPs including Safaricom and Jamii Telecom to block dozens of illegal sports streaming sites.
The list of sites includes 44 names and includes Cricfree, Firstsrowsports, Rojadirecta, Totalsportek, and Yalla-shoot. An overview of all the sites is included at the bottom of this article.
The case originally started in 2019, when MultiChoice Kenya sent takedown notices to the providers, hoping they would block the sports streaming sites. When that didn’t happen, the broadcaster took the matter to court.
Last week, Justice Wilfrida Okwany concluded that the ISPs are indeed legally obliged to take action. When a rightsholder sends a valid takedown request, Internet providers can’t simply ignore it, as happened in this case.
This is the first blocking order in Kenya, which is based on a 2019 revision of the country’s copyright law. The revised law allows rightsholders to issue takedown requests to ISPs. While Internet providers can’t “remove” third-party sites, they can block them, the Court confirmed.
The ruling comes as a disappointment to the ISPs. They previously backed a plan to have the Copyright Act amendment repealed. This proposal was eventually withdrawn from Parliament, in part because the US Government stepped in.
MultiChoice Kenya’s Managing Director, Nancy Matimu, is pleased with the outcome which she describes as an important milestone in the fight against piracy in Africa.
“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.”
Matimu hopes that Kenya’s site blocking order will be an inspiration for other African countries. If others follow suit, it will send a positive signal to international rightsholders.
“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.”
‘More Can be Done’
Indeed, international copyright holders will be pleased to see that site blocking has officially arrived in Kenya. However, there are still plenty of other items on their wishlist.
Last week, the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), which includes the MPA and RIAA, shared a list of shortcomings in Kenya’s copyright and enforcement framework with the US Government.
Among other things, IIPA would like to see Kenya implement a repeat infringer policy to terminate the accounts of persistent pirates. In addition, the copyright term should expand to the life of the author, plus an additional 70 years.
The full list of 44 blocked sites is as follows.
8. soccer-live stream
10. vipbox live
19. HD streams
20. Cdn livetvcdn
34. Barcelona stream
35. sport stream
38. Sport365 live
39. Kora-online TV
40. Stream woop