Creative Commons Licenses And The Kenyan Music Industry


Creative Commons Kenya has, between the years of 2012 and 2015, made quite the impact in the intellectual property world. It has already been established that Creative Commons Kenya is on the rise slowly but surely. However Creative Commons Kenya, in order to succeed, needs to be more involved in other industries particularly the music and arts industries.

In the last two blog posts the topics that were tackled were whether Creative Commons can make it in Kenya and how one should use Creative Commons with caution. This blog post will deal specifically with Creative Commons Kenya and the impact it can make for Kenyans in the ‘art scene.’

Creative Commons recently held an interview with Anil Prasad in which he discussed why musicians should put their work under a Creative Commons license; giving his own experience with a music industry.

Artists constantly face plagiarism or not being credited for their work. In Kenya there have been countless cases where individuals have found their work being used, without their knowledge or permission, by another individual. Famous figures like Caroline Mutoko, KTN have also had their fair share of plagiarism accusations. Yet Kenyans do not seem interested in protecting themselves and their work from being stolen.

What can be done, however, when Kenyans are the ones stealing international artists work? Because this is exactly what happens in the Kenyan gospel reggae with South African artist Lucky Dube. Dube’s tracks are more or less turned into gospel content by Kenyans. This seems to be the reason why plagiarism in the Kenyan music industry is more or less a norm.

Shailja Patel, a Kenyan writer, wrote an interesting two piece article on plagiarism in Kenya; ”Under Whose Name? Plagiarism and the African Arts.” In the article she makes a very thought-provoking statement, ”…so many journalists, aspiring writers and artists, never learned how to report the world through their own eyes…”

Music and art as a whole is generally supposed to be a form of self-expression. Shailja Patel’s statement is a grim one; the fact that plagiarism is a path taken because of suppression of creativity. Although the 2010 Kenyan Constitution has now included a clause – Article 11(1) – that promotes the ‘art scene’ in Kenya, encouraging Kenyans to take up artistic hobbies such as music, poetry and so on.

So what can Creative Commons do for these artists in ensuring their rights and (more importantly) their work is protected?

The most obvious answer is the Creative Commons Licenses that copyright artist’s work. If a track is copyrighted then the artist can take legal action if plagiarism or copyright infringement does occur. By Kenyan artists seeing suits through, plagiarists will fear stealing artists’ work hence reducing (if not putting an end to) plagiarism in the Kenyan music industry.

The only way to achieve this successfully is if Kenyans band together to firstly educate themselves on the options that Creative Commons Kenya has to offer to safeguard their work and secondly to acknowledge and band together in dealing with the issue of plagiarism in the Kenyan art scene.


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