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February 19, 2019

Foreign firm copyrights Kenyan National Anthem

Kenyan flags
Kenyan flags

The Kenyan National anthem has been copyrighted by an international company called De Wolfe.

2nacheki, one of the biggest African channels on YouTube, reported that one of their videos received a copyright strike, which alerted them.

"We wondered why it had copyright issues yet it is a Kenyan property. We posted a video mentioning the top 10 national anthems in Africa, and because we had put Kenya's as number one, it got a copyright strike from a company called De Wolfe Music," the YouTuber said.

What the copyright strike means is that you are using someone else's work without their permission.

"It was said the Kenyan national anthem is owned by an American company, even with the fact that the Kenyan government owns it," he said

Lawyer Perpetua Mwangi from Strathmore University Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law defended this view.

"The government is thus the copyright holder over the literary, musical and sound recordings of Kenya’s national anthem, as such works were commissioned by the State prior to their creation," he wrote in an article.

Does that then mean that Kenya’s national anthem, being out of copyright protection, is free for all and sundry to use as they please?

Kenya’s national anthem is a symbol of national unity and hence enjoys further protection and recognition. Firstly, under Article 9 (1) (b) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and secondly, under section 2A (4) of the National Flag, Emblems and Names Act chapter 99 of the laws of Kenya.

"An international company has copyrighted the Kenyan national anthem and they are earning from it and evening running adverts from it, but a Kenyan Youtuber cannot make money from it," 2nacheki said.

De Wolfe music company copyrighted the sound of the Kenyan anthem and changed some words from the song.

According to YouTube, the song belongs to the international company, which is also connected to another company called AdRev publishers, whose work is to provide multi-platform technology and services that support and empower content owners, right holders brands and creators on YouTube, Facebook and beyond. Meaning the company claimed the Kenya national anthem on behalf of De Wolfe music.

The Kenyan Copyright Board states that the only express prohibition on the use of the national anthem is in relation to an act that amounts to an insult or disrespect of the national anthem.

Intellectual property lawyer Liz Lenjo said, "Right now it's an online dispute being resolved through the YouTube/Google mechanism of copyright disputes, and it will be interesting to see how Google responds to it."

Adding, "Our Copyright Act should have been clear that the National Anthem is an exclusion to copyright and it's regulated under the National Flag, Emblems and Names Act. Since we have ratified the Paris convention for the protection of Industrial property, we should have and it's about time we declared to the International Bureau our state emblems, national anthem, flag, etc., to protect them from such misuse and impossible claims of ownership."

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