Copyright Law In Kenya Explained

Intellectual Property and Copyright laws are the most important laws to every creative professional, artist and filmmaker in Kenya. The creative process of formulating an idea and conceptualizing it on paper is often a tedious process hence no one should never enjoy the rights to your work without your formal consent and/ or compensation.

Intellectual Property is an area of the law which protects creations of the mind such as names and images used in commerce, symbols, literary and artistic works, designs and symbols. The two main branches of intellectual property are Industrial Property and Copyright. Industrial Property includes patents, trademarks, service marks, commercial names and industrial designs. Copyright refers to artistic, literary and musical works such as books, computer programs, art, films, music, photographs, and paintings.

Copyright refers to a set of rights granted by the Kenyan constitution to authors, producers of films, broadcasters, and performers, creators of musical, artistic and literary works.

Copyright protection is motivated by the government’s desire to balance the interests of creators of works and the public. The state aims to motivate creators of artistic works by protecting their works from manipulation hence promoting creative activity in the country. This law provides legal safeguards enabling creativity to thrive.

Creative industries in Kenya such as the TV and film industry, music and books are drivers of the economy. Copyright requires less capital to produce and transfer compared to other intellectual property rights hence this is an ideal way of creatives earning money. For example, if you create music beats and sell your rights to the second party, you earn money.

Most artists and filmmakers get confused on the protection of copyright law. The law doesn’t protect the idea but the expression of the idea from being copied without authority or consent. In this case, expression refers to the written draft of the idea. If you have an idea for a TV show, the law can’t protect that but once you write the idea down on paper and acquire a copyright certificate then, your work is then protected under the law.

The first owner of a copyrighted work is its creator according to the law. A creator may, however, transfer his/her rights, wholly or in part to a second party legally. This results in ownership being held by a person who is not the original creator of the work. Some of the works that fall under Copyright are literary, artistic, audio-visual, broadcasts and sound recordings. This may include TV series, movies, poems, novels, songs, and photographs.

Copyright protection offers economic, moral and related rights to the owner. Economic rights refer to the right to reproduce in any material form, distribute to the public by selling, renting, leasing, hiring or importation, performing or communicating the work in public. Moral rights give entitlement to the author thus he/she has a right to claim authorship of the work and object to distortion that may prejudice his/her reputation. Related rights refer to rights of producers of sound recordings, broadcaster rights, and performer’s rights.

Copyright protection lasts for the life of the creator plus 50 years. In instances where the author is not known, the protection lasts for 50 years from the date of publishing.

The law not only applies to Kenyan works but also foreign works. All foreign works of member states of the World Trade Organization and Berne Convention are eligible for protection in their respective countries according to the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO).

KECOBO is the statutory body mandated to regulate affairs in the copyright industry in Kenya. Its major functions include registering a copyright, prosecution of copyright cases, training, awareness raising and advocacy on copyright matters and administration on all matters of Copyright and related rights in Kenya. It is currently headed by Millicent Ogutu as its Chairperson and Edward Sigei as Executive Director.

One may be fined up to Sh 800,000 or a custodial sentence of up to 10 years or both if they infringe on copyright work. Infringement occurs when a person not legally authorized by the author reproduces, translates, adapts, performs, sells or hires the work. Because Copyright is a private right, the copyright owner is expected to monitor the market to detect any infringement of his/her work and submit a complaint to KECOBO and the Police. One may also pursue a civil action.

Let’s give you a rundown of some of the details you should know about intellectual property law in Kenya.


This can be your manuscript, short film or any other idea drafted and dated on paper. To claim its ownership, you must get a certificate from KECOBO.

Statutory Cost: Sh 1,000

Application Duration: 5-7 working days

Government Body in Charge: Kenya Copyright Board

Ownership Duration: Your entire lifetime + 50 years after your death



This protects the exclusive use of a logo or brand name.

Statutory cost: Sh 10,000 upwards depending on the category

Application Duration: 6 months.

Government Body in Charge: Kenya Industrial Property Institute.

Ownership Duration: 10 years and renewable on expiration.



This is the highest form of Intellectual Property protection. This is common in big corporations such as Samsung who patent their inventions. They add value to your company.

Statutory Cost: Sh 100,000 upwards plus an annual fee.

Application Duration: 20 years.

Government Body in Charge: Kenya Industrial Property Institute.

Ownership Duration: 20 years renewable on expiration.


Industrial Designs

This majorly focuses on the beauty of your creation, putting into consideration colors and lines. Forexample, shoedesigns, fabric prints, and perfume bottles.

Statutory Cost: Sh 15,000

Application Duration: 4-6 months

Government Body in Charge: Kenya Industrial Property Institute

Ownership Duration: 15 years, renewable fees every five years.



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