Rampant Plagiarism of Kenyan Photographs Online

The Nairobi Dusk image by Photographer Mwangi Kirubi (Mwarv) that was plagiarised by Easy Taxi Kenya

Last year in March I wrote a comprehensive article on 10 cases of Plagiarism in Kenya. This is becoming quite rife. Previously, plagiarism cases were only being reported by Kenyan bloggers against media houses or Media personalities and involved mostly use of text articles on blogs without consent. There are some blogs existing solely to re-publish(often without any consent) popular articles appearing elsewhere online either locally or internationally.

Nairobi – The City in the Sun

Due to the growing number of multinationals seeking to set up their operations in Nairobi ( the latest rush being in the Taxi market), the growing appetite for news and stories from Kenya due to the ‘Silicon Savannah’ hype and the growing need for companies to have better looking websites, there has been an increasing demand for that perfect image depicting the ‘City in the Sun’ Nairobi has become famous for.

Before Mwangi Kirubi (Mwarv) and Mutua Matheka’s captivating panoramic images of the Nairobi city skyline, there had not been such beautiful breathtaking images on the internet of Nairobi either at sunrise, dusk or with the millions of lights dotting the ever growing number of skyscrapers.

Before Mwarv’s and Mutua’s images online as well as others taken by the growing number of photographers who as seeing the power of the internet as a tool for promotion of their craft, anyone who wanted to use images of Nairobi had to settle for the less creative ‘Safari in Africa’ inspired ones shot at the Uhuru Park. Most of those images are in the public domain and are now available on wikimedia.

Plagiarism of images taken by Kenyans photographers is on the increase. This is due to a culmination of various factors;

a. The need to use beautiful images of Nairobi a website, mobile app, brochure, banner

b. Finding breathtaking images on Kenyan Photography blogs that are posing like Africa before colonialism (yours for the taking)

c. How easy it is to right click on the image and click on ‘Save image as’

d. How photo shop can help one crop the image, remove the photographer’s watermark

e. The satisfaction from the use of the image indiscriminately for profit or for fame.

A Community of Kenyan Photographers

The community of Kenyan Photographers has gone such that there is an Association called Photographers Association of Kenya which apart from having an active member community group on Facebook, they together with PAWA254 hold an annual photography competition for Kenyan photographers across various fields. The Submissions for this year’s awards opened on 19th December 2014 and close at midnight on 28th February 2015. Judging shall take place between March and April 2015 and the award Gala shall take place on Sunday, May 10th 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya.


There are those cases that did not get as much attention from Kenyans online as they deserved, probably because the photographers did not make enough noise or did not seek online influencers’ help to force the perpetrators to remove the images and compensate them. I have a friend who is a very good wildlife photographer. He stopped posting his images online when his previous shots were used by some international firm on their website without consent or compensation. He felt the fight was not worth it and decided to stop posting the images instead. If this trend continues, where plagiarists are not named and shamed, we will not have photographers who are showing a different image of Kenya and Africa, different from the ones the world remembers when they hear Africa.

We highlight some 4 major cases of image plagiarism against well known Kenyan Photographers;-

1. Mutua Matheka vs Nairobi County Council

In 2013, Mutua’s images of Nairobi’s Skyline were used on the newly launched Nairobi County Council website without his knowledge, consent or compensation. When he confronted them via their twitter handle, they initially denied it(the images had been Photoshopped) however, the meta-data on the image source, camera used etc was a dead give away.

The matter was settled out of court with the Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero admitting to the theft and agreeing to take down the image. IP Kenya a blog dedicated on focusing on Intellectual Property in Kenya wrote on this incident and why there is need for better legislation and awareness on IP in Kenya. Mutua however, had some words of caution to web designers who dupe the clients that the images are original or obtained legally only for the client (Nairobi County Council in this case) to have their name dragged through mud online.

2. David Mugo vs Citizen TV

In March last year, David Mugo (@raidarmax) a well known lifestyle photographer and the founder of Niaje blog confronted Citizen TV for using his images in the Fashion TV show hosted by Lilian Muli without his knowledge or compensation. It was an ugly confrontation that took place on twitter and took the intervention of the Royal Media Services MD Wachira Waruru for the conflict to be resolved.

Details of how much was offered in compensation or what working arrangement was reached are not known.

3. Mwarv vs @PDevour & vs Easy Taxi

Mwarv’s images online are like a light to moth. Lucky for him, he is part of a very close knit community of fellow photographers and a huge following online of fans who also double up as vigilantes who inform him when his images have been stolen.

Mwarv, like Mutua, is also very prolific on his blog and will not any theft just slide. He highlights them showing all why he is certain that it was his work that has been plagiarized.

The case of Pete Devour was that of a fame hungry lazy dude who wanted women complimenting him on his instagram page for all the amazing images of Nairobi he had been taking.

Needless to say, he was soon reported to Instagram and his account blocked.

Easy Taxi, Easy Steal
This is the most recent and potentially lethal fire that would have burnt Easy Taxi’s reputation more than they could imagine. Easy Taxi have been using Mwarv’s images of Nairobi by night on their app’s face book page after they edited it to mask ownership then used it to promote their app in the Kenyan market.

Blessing in Disguise?

Although it is totally unacceptable for someone to pass off other people’s work as their own especially for monetary gain, there is a bit of positivity to all the evil. It means that they person appreciated your work so much that they wish they had done it themselves.

Copying is the best form of flattery. For Mwarv and Mutua, what this constant plagiarism (theft) of their work means is that their work is truly appreciated and alot of entities and individuals want to be identified with it.

However, photographers don’t live on air burgers thus for one to truly appreciate their work, attribution, consent and license acquisition is important.

In our next post, we look at ways in which, you can ensure that you dissuade (not prevent) plagiarism of your work, track and how to deal with those who steal your work.

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