Kenyan Internet Firms Ordered to Close Pirated Football Sites

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    Football lovers watch a football match at a restaurant
  • The High Court has ordered two internet providers in Kenya to pull down or disable all websites pirating content owned by MultiChoice. The company owns exclusive rights to airing sports across Sub-Saharan Africa.

    This directive will deal a huge blow to sports fanatics who stream matches on several internet channels that broadcast football matches illegally. 

    In her ruling, Justice Wilfrida Okwany issued temporary orders targeting sites alleged to be airing football content without approval from the rights owners. 

    "Section 35B of the Copyright Act obligates an Internet service provider to take down any infringing content within 48 hours of being served with a takedown notice," the plaintiff argued.

    A file image of a woman using a phone.
    A file image of a lady using a phone
    Simon Kiragu

    The respondents, the two internet providers, however, argued that they do not own the pirated sites. They said that the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) is mandated to regulate the sites and content aired in Kenya. 

    The case was based on the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2019 which introduced new laws to gag copyright infringement in Internet Service Providers (ISPs). 

    Section 35B of the Act states that a person whose rights have been infringed by content to which access is being offered by an Internet service provider may request, by way of a takedown notice, that the ISP removes the infringing content.

    The case will be mentioned on March 3, 2021, with football enthusiasts keen to know their fate. 

    In July 2019, Kenyan football fans were ranked top in Africa and third in the world for illegal football streaming. The study was conducted by AI-powered sports sponsorship and marketing technology firm, GumGum Sports, and global authority on digital piracy, MUSO. 

    In September 2020, the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) unearthed a suspected criminal network of copyright infringements, mainly responsible for pirating top international football leagues in Kenya.

    KECOBO Executive Director Edward Sigei stated that distributors of pirated material were responsible for huge losses to content owners and providers.

    In August 2020, the US and other foreign countries coordinated to take down a criminal network of copyright-infringing hackers, mainly responsible for pirating movies and hosting illegal digital content worldwide. 

    The European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (EUROJUST) disclosed that more than 60 servers were taken down in North America, Europe and Asia and several of the main suspects were arrested. 

    Kenyan youth using a phone