Will using an artist’s brand amount to copyright infringement

The Kenyan music scene has been running into hurdles as of late; Kenyan musicians have been speaking out against companies who have been taking advantage of them and their work. Enter: Wangechi Waweru, known by her stage name Wangechi, is a Kenyan rapper and songwriter.

On the 31st of August 2016, Wangechi released a video to her official Facebook page. The video had the following description:

“I’m not one to raise my voice online but it reaches a moment where you have to fight for your hard work and what you believe in. In early June Techno Kenya ran an ad campaign around a new phone and used my image for that campaign. They used my image and likeness in the form of an advertisement which came across as an endorsement of the product. They did not seek my approval or consent for it neither did they pay for the use of my image and likeness. After 8 weeks of legal conversation they went silent and deleted all images and videos associated with me. As an artist our image and likeness is our source of livelihood it is our bread and butter. It is not okay to misuse and take away from us when we work so hard to build ourselves.”

Techno has since deleted the image of Wangechi that they had used due to the attention they have been receiving from fans. Techno had not informed Wangechi or her team that they were using the artist’s image to promote their product and there had been no form of consideration given to Wangechi.

Wangechi is calling for Techno to compensate her in the form of damages for the use of her image.

However the question arises: how do the laws of Kenya protect image rights? This blogger has come across another article by IP lawyer and blogger, Victor Nzomo where he discusses recent cases pending before the courts relating to image rights claims. The plaintiffs found themselves legally battling well-established companies such as Microsoft, Safaricom and in one case even the German embassy. The judgments’ in each case was different based on the judges’ discretion and contextual factors.

We will wait to see which direction Wangechi’s case against Techno takes.

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