Event Review: POWO July – Intellectual Property & The laws that apply to Bloggers

“This revolution will not be televised”

As I arrived at the Bishop Magua building center at half past 10, I did not know what to expect. Lots of thoughts were running through my head as I struggled to set my mind into gear for discussion on Copyright Laws and Patents without expressing my anger.

As I strolled into the iHub, anger began to fill me up and I was so fired to say of my tales of robbery with mental violence. Not more than a fortnight ago I sat down at the edge of my bed on one of those sad insomniac days, and wrote a therapeutic piece from the heart about the demise of a friend. I gave it my all in terms of feelings and wording and as I posted it on my blog with a few tears trickling down my cheeks I felt relieved and spent.

A week later, my piece was on another blog and worst of all, the writer on that blog was insistent that the piece was theirs and they wrote it fully. I felt like attaching a file full of anthrax in the e-mail and making sure no virus scan detected as he choked of the dust and developed ugly sores that resemble who they look like. I was infuriated!

Do I have protection against such theft without violence? I know I am not alone in this war but who am I fighting? Can s/he who steals our creations be fined in any way? Where will I find justice?

Wandiri Karimi (left) & Sarah Amoit (right) during POWO July
(Photo by Mahebo Robert)

As the event kicked off with a showing of Gil Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and a rendition of the same by Sarah Jones my heart took a chill pill and I eased into the moment…the now of intellectual, factual knowledge impartment.

With a very able and well versed MC as Ndanu, POWO (POets and Writers Online) was bound to be awesome for this day. The panelist included 3 lawyers Collins Mbalo (also a blogger at Nairobian Perspective), Sarah Amoit, an advocate at the High Court and Karimi Wandiri a band member and an event organiser behind the Kinanda Festival and an avid bloggerRoomthinker.
The artist for the event was Ngwatilo who I believe has an awesome collection of pieces and mouth watering performance prowess. As she graced the stage power oozing out of her and the thought of how it would feel if she realized that someone else had taken one of her pieces for performance on an international stage without her permission would hurt.

During the first presentation by Sarah, I picked up the following: Intellectual Property is the creation of the mind and under the Kenyan constitution an individual’s intellectual property should be protected from theft by another party without their consent. Some of the protection mechanisms include industrial design which protects the look or physical appearance of the product, patent, trademark among other forms.

For most bloggers and writers trademarks and patents will not help much as they are based on a product that is to be produced in large scale. Our work can be protected under copyrights

Ngwatilo as she performs one of her poems
(Photo by Mahebo Robert)

Copyrights protect the very expression of ideas which range between dramatic, artistic, musical and literally works. The work ought to be an original for it to be protected. A duplication of someone else’s work is not allowed for copyright. Though one can waiver their rights moral rights as to where your creation can be used is never waivered. If you register your work you can be protected for up to 50 years after your death. This is a good time frame to respect you and your creation.

At the end of the day what you have to ask yourself is whether an acknowledgment of the author of the content is good enough and if monitory compensation in the event of economic gain will reduce this issue.

After Sarah’s presentation, followed a panel discussion by Collins and M (Roomthinker), each of whom have had their works published on dailies after getting lifted from their blogs and of course after much push and pull from the established media houses some acknowledgement (and also some apology of sorts).

Ngwatilo also gave another of her pieces before a second panel discussion of Wandiri K and Sarah Amoit delved deeper into what poets, musicians both classified as performing artistes can do to protect their work, seek legal redress or settle disputes arising from the use of one’s works without prerequisite permissions.

A final panel discussion of the 4 guests summed up the day’s main topics and left an audience thoroughly drawn into legalese. All sessions were moderated by the day’s MC, Ndanu. Sarah Amoit gave an interesting example of how some American took patenting a bit too far with the turmeric case and India’s fight for the same.

Anyone out there willing to fight for Kenya’s Kiondo, Kikoy or what Louis Vuitton did with the Maasai shuka for his spring collection 2012?

The Day’s MC Ndanu (Right) and Njeri Wangari
(Photo by Mahebo Robert

It was definitely concluded that if you want copyrights to be effective we should also respect the rules ourselves. When we take someone’s content we should quote the source and credit it in totality. If we respect them then our work will be respected.

Protection is better than regret. Protect your work and avoid hurt in future.

Will I attend the next POWO? I definitely will. Where else can I get free legal consultation without a fee? I loved POWOJuly. And from now henceforth as I respect other people’s work and you plagiarize my work, let’s meet in court.

To view live updates of the POWOJuly tweets check the #POWOJuly Hashtag.

By Mahebo Robert ©

Edited by Richard Wanjohi

To download the Power Point Presentation done by Sarah Amoit on Saturday, click here 

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