Landmark ruling hands pirates taste of their own medicine

Kuza Awards
Multichoice piracy
Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

When raids are conducted and content pirates start going to jail, we will start to see an industry where content rights are respected and producers earning what they are entitled to.

Any football fan in Nairobi’s Eastland’s knows that on match days, scaling the City Stadium walls or standing on the Footbridge outside the stadium is one way they have avoided paying for a ticket. 

Every football fan also knows a former player who is languishing in abject poverty having failed to eke out a living for the decades they poured their lives into the game without commensurate pay.

It is hard to connect the dots but when viewers do not pay, talent goes unrewarded, the future of the beautiful game becomes bleak.

Lately the entry of Pay-tv into local leagues with sponsorship deals have injected money into local teams.

But as the Coronavirus pandemic hit the continent and attending live matches became a thing of the past, viewership of local games have gone up, and so have crafty ways of cheating and piracy.

A landmark ruling by a Seychelles court has revealed the underbelly piracy in the continent that is crippling pay-tv providers and squeezing out the money, which would otherwise benefit football players who provide the entertainment as well as local talent for TV content.

In the ruling, Supreme Court of the Seychelles found that Intelvision broke the law when it broadcast matches from the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) football tournament infringing in the exclusive rights of MultiChoice Africa and its subsidiary SuperSport.

Intelvision TV went on Facebook and advertised that it was offering ‘exclussive’ coverge of the tournament through its ‘Extravagance bouquet’ that cost Seychelles rupee 790 (Sh5191) a month.

It did this knowing that only Multichoice through SuperSport and Canal plus had the exclusive rights to show the live matches.

The court found the firm in breach of copyright laws and has ordered an audit of the firms books to establish how much they gained from the infringement which will be used to determine compensation to Multichoice.

This decision sets a strong national and regional precedent in upholding content-sharing agreements to ensure that the rights of content providers are protected at every level of the supply chain. 

The case reinforces what has become rampant cheating on a commercial scale that has been bleeding content companies.

In Africa, piracy remains a significant problem – particularly in the digital-content space, where in some cases even mainstream internet service providers stand accused of enabling piracy.

Piracy according to Multichoice lawyers is rampant in Africa through obtaining Multichoice decoders under false pretence of using it for home viewing but instead using it to broadcast content illegally.

Content in SuperSport is also being obtained illegally from live streaming and illegally being redistributed.

Content piracy takes many forms, often simply amounting to intentional content theft. Content piracy involves unauthorised use of content, whether broadcast, shared, streamed or accessed in any way.

“Illegally streaming content on digital platforms without paying for it or having the rights to do so has exploded globally, and on the African continent, particularly during the pandemic. Other forms of piracy are hardware-related crimes – such as illegal connections and the sale of counterfeit decoders,” Multichoice said after the landmark ruling.

The case illustrates the growing awareness on piracy across the continent and underpins efforts to fight back and ensure that creators are remunerated fairly and the content ecosystem – on which much of modern media is built – remains sustainable.

A united front is developing across the region, with various organisations showing a commitment to fighting piracy, protecting content rights and building a content economy governed by the rule of law, which is safe for investors and beneficial for local economic growth and development.

Partners Against Piracy (PAP) is an awareness initiative launched in Kenya, championed by the  Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO). It has also been launched in Zambia, where it is driven by the National Arts Council (NAC). 

PAP is a multi-stakeholder awareness programme to help fight the piracy menace by educating the public on the unintended consequences of piracy and the threat it poses to livelihoods, and society at large.

Ultimately, piracy robs content creators, artists and entire creative communities of their royalties.

To put it simply, when content is stolen, creators do not get paid. New content stops becoming available and audiences suffer. Confidence evaporates, investment stagnates and entire industries die.

The cases Kenyan actor Joseph Olita and South Africa actor Ray “Velaphi” Ntlokwana, gospel star Lundi Tyamara, – who entertained millions and died paupers – are instructive.

The injustices that they and countless other African artists have suffered proves that if we do not protect content rights and intellectual property, the creators suffer, lives are destroyed, economies stagnate and communities are short-changed.

When raids are conducted and content pirates start going to jail, we will start to see an industry where content rights are respected and producers and owners of entertainment content can earn the kind of living they are entitled to.


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