The Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) has warned creatives and corporates against using memes for commercial purposes without consent from the owners.
This comes after memes of comedians Arap Marindich and Tula surfaced the internet for the better part of the week .
In the video from which the now viral memes have been generated, Marindich – with a dusty face – was seen impersonating a rally driver, explaining how extreme and tense the rally was during the WRC weekend. He was accompanied by his ‘navigator’ whom he identified as Kaptula but refers to as just ‘Tula’.
Speaking in their Kalenjin dialect, the duo explained how the terrain was challenging and ended up in a bush while trying to navigate the map, which they say was complex to understand.
“The race was fun but unfortunately we found ourselves in the bush, look at these branches which stuck inside our car, we even almost rolled over. All we could see was white drivers passing us by in the bush,” said Marindich in part of the video clip.
Screenshots from the viral video have since been used in memes and it is arguably the only Kenyan meme that has gone global. Recently, he became a trending topic in Zambia due to his funny facial expressions that have continued to be a source of amusement among netizens. I presume you have also come across one or two? let me know on the comment section.
Following the outburst of his memes and others from different content creators, the KECOBO boss Edward Sigei has come in aid for the content creators to ensure they benefit from their creative works.
In a statement released on Friday, Sigei said the memes have since been used by a host of Kenyan corporate across various social media platforms, thereby raising significant copyright concerns.
“A meme is an image, video or text used in social media for humorous or political banter and illustrative of a line of thought on a topic under discussion,” said Mr. Sigei.
Memes are in most cases static images created from a photograph, illustration, text, or video that is protected by copyright.
According to Mr. Sigei, the Copyright Act bestows upon only the copyright holder the rights to reproduce, publish and broadcast their work for a period of time.
A copyright is a collection of rights that automatically vest to someone who creates an original work of authorship like a literary work, song, movie or software. These rights include the right to reproduce the work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies, and to perform and display the work publicly. Unlike the case with patents, copyright protects the expressions and not the ideas. There is no copyright in an idea.
“In that regard, a copyright owner can create a meme from his photograph or video in exercise of their rights under copyright. Such memes can be exploited for the benefit of the author through advertising and as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs),” stated Mr. Sigei.
“Therefore, a meme generated without the authority of the Copyright owner is an infringement on their copyright particularly the exclusive rights to reproduce, copy, adapt and publish since the original photograph or video undergoes some alteration and incorporation of a text.”
The KECOBO Executive Director has asked corporate bodies to conduct due diligence on the status of photographs or videos before being tempted to join the fun. He further reiterated that despite the use of memes on social being tolerated, their publication for commercial purposes can attract significant civil liability.
Take caution to avoid flouting the law.