Government warns against using memes after two comedians go viral

The Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) has warned Kenyans against using memes after two comedians, Arap Marindich and Tula Chemoget, went viral by impersonating World Rally Championship drivers who took part in the Safari Rally in Naivasha, Nakuru County, participated.

In a statement Friday, Aug. 5, KECOBO noted that reproducing, adapting, publishing and broadcasting the comedians’ work without consent is a violation of copyright rule.

“While the use of memes on social media is tolerated, their creation and use for commercial purposes may result in significant civil liability and must be resolved by the authors,” the letter reads in part.

The warning comes after social media platforms were swamped by two comedians impersonating World Rally Championship drivers.

A person using a mobile phone.

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The photos of Marindich and Chemoget have been reproduced and meme-packed and distributed worldwide, including in countries such as Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Italy, Spain and parts of Europe.

They went viral after explaining how rally drivers maneuvered through rough terrain during the Naivasha World Rally Championship.

After increasing usage of their memes, KECOBO says companies using the memes should seek approval of comedian failure, for which they will be held liable for violating copyright law.

Copyright infringement occurs when a third party performs any of the exclusive acts granted to the author without the permission of the copyright owner.

Copyright is essentially a private right, so enforcement follows the directions of the creator. Intentional copyright infringement on a commercial scale may be punishable by law.

The Kenya Copyright Board defended the decision to limit the use of memes, claiming that if consent is not obtained, it will make it more difficult for comedians to earn money from their artistic creations.

“Therefore, a meme created without the permission of the copyright owner constitutes an infringement of his copyright, in particular the exclusive rights of reproduction, copy, adaptation and publication, since the original photo or video undergoes some modification and incorporation of a text” , explained KECOBO.

In enforcing the law, KECOBO receives complaints and conducts investigations before conducting raids and seizing the infringing copies before going to court.

Once the matter is resolved, the Kenya Copyright Board will destroy the material in accordance with court orders.

In a landmark case, an Eldoret-based businessman was sentenced to six months in prison for copyright infringement.

In a recent case, Sauti Sol accused Azimio la Umoja of violating her rights by playing one of her songs during the unveiling of Raila Odinga’s collaborator Martha Karua.

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Sauti Sol at a public event on February 25, 2021

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