Parlons! An Interview with Victor Nzomo
Victor Nzomo, Intellectual Property Counsel and fellow blogger (IPKenya), graciously acquiesced to our request to ask him several questions pertaining to intellectual property and technology in Kenya. In this interview, Victor candidly delves into topics such as his career in copyright law, the evolution and future of IP law in Kenya and his very own blog, just to name a few! To learn more about Victor and his fascinating history and journey with IP, check out the interview below!
Also, don’t forget to follow Victor on twitter @IPKenya
1) Walk us through a day in the life? How does a typical working day unfold for you?
My day job is General Counsel at the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK). MCSK is the sole collective management organisation (CMO) for authors, composers and publishers and arrangers of musical works. Therefore, most of my daily work is in the copyright branch of IP. I advise the Board and the Management on all legal, regulatory and contractual aspects of collective management. In addition, I am in charge of International Affairs at MCSK therefore I am actively involved in MCSK’s bilateral and multilateral engagements with foreign societies worldwide.
My night job is Research Fellow at Strathmore University Law Centre for IP and IT Law (CIPIT). I spend most of my time interacting with various players in Kenya’s IP space. I monitor and keep record of all IP-related trends, developments and prospects in Kenya, within Africa and throughout the world. All the information I gather is presented in articles which I publish, mainly online.
2) What is the most fascinating part about practicing IP law in Kenya?
The most fascinating thing is there is a growing awareness of the importance of IP among both the members of the Bar and the Bench in Kenya. Generally, there is also an increased appreciation of IP among members of the public.
3) How has the conversation regarding IP in Kenya evolved since you commenced working in the field?
Since I joined the IP field, Kenya has promulgated a new constitution which expressly provides for the promotion, support and protection of intellectual property rights. In the copyright space, there is a growing push among users for more exceptions and limitations to the exclusive rights of owners. In the industrial property space, there is a steady increase in trademark and patent applications and more IP disputes being filed in courts countrywide.
4) We gather that you’ve worked with Kenya’s Copyright Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization. Through these experiences, you must have acquired extensive knowledge on how IP operates not only in the public and private sphere, but also the domestic and international. From these work experiences, how have you seen the dialogue between many of copyright law’s stakeholders’ play out?
From my work experience in Kenya’s vibrant creative industries, I’ve noticed an exponential increase in content creation including music, film, literature as well mobile apps and software. Content creators are keen to protect their creations and benefit from them using the various IP regimes available. The feeling among most content creators is that the copyright law framework in Kenya is weak and has not been adapted to the digital era. For instance certain provisions commonly found in the WIPO Internet Treaties and the US DMCA relating to ISP liability and notice and take-down have not been included in Kenya’s copyright laws.
5) What inspired you to start blogging and why do you continue to blog?
Watching friends, family and perfect strangers blogging about their professions, their lives, their thoughts and their experiences is what inspired me to start blogging.
From as early as 2007, I started reading a wide range of blogs both local and foreign on everything from politics to culture, music, lifestyle, relationships and poetry. I started my first blog in 2008 – an online diary of sorts and later I started blogging professionally in 2010-2011.
6) You’ve been blogging since 2011 and have likely been exposed to endless rhetoric on the state of IP rights and/or where IP rights need to be. Do you think that there’s a forum for this sort of dialogue taking place online, in IP policy-making?
This IP dialogue has started taking place online due to the uptake of social media tools particularly twitter and facebook. In the case of twitter, both the Copyright Board (@KenyaCopyright) and the Trademarks and Patent Office (@KIPIKenya) are actively engaging with members of the public online as well as disseminating IP-related news and information. In addition, there’s an influential group of IP enthusiasts in Kenya known as IP Checkin (@IPCheckin) who hold monthly meetings to discuss IP in conjunction with CIPIT (@StrathCIPIT). Things are much slower in the blogosphere, with IP Kenya as the only up-to-date IP blog in Kenya. Currently, IPKenya is working in partnership with CIPIT to provide blog content on IP/IT related topics.
7) We recently launched a Global Innovation Series on our Blog where we profile technology and innovation hubs across the emerging world; in terms of start-up culture and innovation, what is the atmosphere like in Kenya? Do you encounter many tech entrepreneurs and innovators in your daily dealings?
I applaud you on this fantastic new series and I would invite you to profile some of the great work happening in Kenya’s tech and creative spaces.
In fact, Nairobi is home to one of the premier innovation hubs in East and Central Africa called the *iHub_ (@ihub). Apart from the iHub, there are several other notable tech and innovation hubs in Nairobi such as nailab, mlab and ilab.
In addition to these tech hubs, there is also a growing start-up culture in the creative sectors led by PAWA (@Pawa254) which brings together visual creatives, journalists, & organizers across Kenya as well as POWO (@Powo) which is a forum for Poets and Writers using the internet to publish or promotion their writing.
Within these various hubs, I offer advice and information on all aspects of IP during training sessions and seminars.
8) This is a rather open-ended and broad question, but where do you see Kenya’s IP laws, or more specifically copyright laws, going in the future?
I see IP laws developing as the various interest groups representing IP owners and IP users become more sophisticated in their understanding and use of IP laws. This development will not only be through legislative and policy means but also through the courts as IP-related disputes steadily increase.
In the case of copyright laws, I foresee several legislative and regulatory changes aimed at strengthening the powers of the Copyright Board to address rising cases of piracy as well as control the operations of CMOs in Kenya. I also foresee the establishment of the Copyright Tribunal which will play an important role in regulating the affairs of the Board and CMOs in the public interest. In the future, I suspect Kenya will introduce several new copyright law provisions such as ISP liability for infringement, notice and take-down measures and compulsory licensing.
All in all, the future of Kenya’s IP laws looks promising and I hope I will be around long enough to study and document it fully.
Don’t forget to keep up with us on twitter @IPEyeBlog, and Facebook @IPEyeBlog!
About: Tracy Ayodele
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