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Will Press

Legal researcher and daydream enthusiast in an unhealthy relationship with music and some TV.

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Microsoft IP Hub Africa

Among the challenges of the ever-growing tech and creative communities in Africa is the reliance on secrecy, or even trust, as opposed using established legal safeguards to protect their intellectual property. As a result, the products or innovations of these communities are often prone to exploitation or are not monetized at all.

To further drive this point home, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) reports that only 383 resident patent applications were filed either through the Patent Cooperation Treaty procedure or through KIPI in the 2009-2012 period. 683 similar were filed in Egypt; 608 in South Africa and 53 in the Ivory Coast.  This sharply contrasts with the large numbers of applications filed in developed countries such as the USA whose residents filed 983,421 applications in the same period.

It is in appreciation of this situation that on June 26, software and tech mega-firm Microsoft launched a portal aiming to create an IP protection culture in Africa by offering developers and independent software vendors with the skills and tools necessary to develop, protect and profit from their innovations. Dubbed the Microsoft 4Afrika Intellectual Property Hub, the portal will pilot in Kenya over the next two years before being handed over to the government. There are plans to roll out similar portals in other African countries as well.

“The Microsoft 4Afrika innovation goal is to bring to market and help African startups monetize their innovations and ideas, and allow them to make the right connection with investors,”  said Louis Otieno, director for Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft 4Afrika. “Protecting intellectual property ultimately leads to wealth creation and economic growth, and encourages development of knowledge-based industries. We designed the IP Hub to play a critical role in empowering African innovators and spurring this growth.”

To learn more about the hub and to sign up for member ship, visit the IP Hub website.

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Aside from the buzz caused by the release of Sanaipei Tande’s latest (and very sensual) music video Mfalme Wa Mapenzi, it is also at the center of a dispute between the song’s publishers and the production house that shot the video.  According to The Star, Onfon Media was contracted by the song’s producer Wawesh Mjanja and his label director Elijah Girimani for a bunch of music videos for an up-coming compilation album, including the music video to Mfalme Wa Mapenzi. They had issues with the video but Onfon Media allegedly went ahead to release the video without the label’s consent. The producers are currently contemplating suing Onfon Media for damages.

The producers’ plan to re-shoot the video in the US has consequently hit a serious snag given the fact that the music video released by Onfon Media has already gained significant traction. There are also no indications that steps are being taken to stop the video’s broadcasting on  FTA and Pay TV or to take it down from sites such as YouTube where it is currently enjoying more than 300,000 views. This is slowly developing into a case of not being able to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Even without a proper insight into the actual agreement between the producers and Onfon Media, this looming dispute highlights the generally avoided matter that is rights in a music video, which should essentially be owned by the label. The production house that comes up with the video is in most cases regarded as an independent contractor without any rights in the finished product. Silence about these matters at the point of making the agreement often leads to assumptions that the production house has some right to publish the music video without consent of the label.

The pressure to release videos without consent or co-ordination of any sort is doubled when it comes to work that could spark public interest, particularly on the internet and social media where hits and exposure are central to the success of any media outfit. This could be one of the reasons why, in the case of YouTube for example, we have an incomprehensible trend of seeing duplicate videos uploaded on both the production house’s and the label or artist’s channels which only results in splitting the views that could have been directed at a single video and getting everyone involved better exposure in the long run.