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Govt issues warning on Memes use after two comedians go viral

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By Judith Gicobi

The Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) has advised Kenyans against creating memes after two comedians, Arap Marindich and Tula Chemoget, went viral for imitating drivers from the World Rally Championship who competed in the Safari Rally in Naivasha, Nakuru County, in June.

In a statement dated Friday, August 5, KECOBO stated that it is against the copyright law to reproduce, modify, publish, or broadcast the comedians’ work without their permission.

“While the use of memes in social media is tolerated, its creation and use for commercial purposes can attract significant civil liability and must be cleared from the authors,” their letter read in part.

The warning was issued as a result of two comedians’ widespread impersonation of World Rally Championship drivers on social media.

The images of Marindich and Chemoget had been copied, turned into memes, and circulated widely across the world, including in nations like Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Italy, Spain, and parts of Europe.

The duo gained popularity after ‘demonstrating’ how rally drivers navigated difficult terrain at the Naivasha World Rally Championship.

As a result of the growing use of their memes, KECOBO states that corporates should obtain the comedians’ permission before utilizing the memes; else, they risk being held accountable for violating copyright laws.

The Kenya Copyright Board defended the decision to limit the use of memes by arguing that, if permission is not obtained, it is difficult for comedians to profit from their artistic creations.

“Therefore, a meme generated without the authority of the Copyright owner is an infringement on their copyright particularly the exclusive rights to reproduce, copy, adapt and publish since the original photograph or video undergoes some alteration and incorporation of a text,” KECOBO explained.

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