There was news some few days back that the Kenyan national anthem had been copyrighted by a British company, stirring debate on this issue among Kenyans and across the world.
A Kenyan content creator, who runs the YouTube channel "2nacheki" had his video flagged down for copyright infringement. The video ranked the best national anthems in Africa. He was informed that AdRev Publishing had registered the complaint on behalf of De Wolfe Music, a British music company. What it essentially meant was that De Wolfe owned the copyright to the national anthem of Kenya.
But how can a foreign company be said to be owning the national anthem of another country which has full governance in its possession? Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo), said that "the government has copyright for its commissioned works for up to 50 years." The national anthem of Kenya came to life in 1963, which means that the copyright lapsed in 2013. After that, it was never reviewed. The country's Copyright Act is silent on whether the anthem should still be regulated by Kenyan law after its lapse.
Kecobo wrote; "Arising out of this incident, there is a need to further secure the use of these national symbols by making amendments to the Copyright Act to expressly state that even where copyright in certain government works is expired, the use of such works shall still be subject to authorization as required under the National Flags, Emblems and Names Act."
"The National Anthem is over 50 years and has thus fallen into public domain. However, given the place of National Anthem in any country and the provisions of the National Flags, Emblems and Names Act (Cap 99 laws of Kenya) there is additional protection of the anthem against misuse and improper use," read the statement.
"Under that Act, the use of the National Anthem, emblems, names and other similar symbols is restricted and its use shall be subject to written permission by the minister in charge of interior."
"In addition, there are consultations between KECOBO and relevant state departments on legal and administrative measures to prevent unauthorized copyright claim on the National Anthem now and in future."
However, what is clear is that De Wolfe only owns the arrangement/instrumental of the Kenyan national anthem. The company denied that it owns the national anthem after an outpour of public outcry on social media.
There have been calls for the amendment of the Copyright Act so that it addresses what happens to the national anthem after its commissioning expired. Cries on copyright issues come months after the Swahili term "Hakuna Matata" was copyrighted by Walt Disney.
Header image credit: Nairobi Wire