In March 2020, the Kenya Copyright Board announced that it had launched the ‘Partners Against Piracy Campaign’ describing it as a “multi-stakeholder” awareness program.
The Copyright Board said that pirates “don’t pay for the goods or services that they utilize” and “hardly pay taxes and/or employ staff.” Broadly speaking, pirates were having a detrimental effect on the economy and that needed to change.
With legislation being tightened up, the campaign’s initial goal was to “sensitize the public on the changes in the law that support enforcement in the online environment.”
The sensitization program was supported by several PSA-style videos, including the one embedded directly below. “This is a collaboration of like minded corporate Industry associations and individual right holders to help fight piracy,” the Copyright Board added.
In 2022, after fighting unfavorable amendments to copyright law, then introducing site-blocking to Kenya to protect MultiChoice and indirectly the Premier League, some elements of Kenyan media were calling PAP a “lobby group” instead.
Given the alleged multi-billion annual losses to piracy, it’s hardly surprising that every possible tool was on the table.
PAP Targets Local ISP
PAP describes itself on social media platforms as a “multi-sectoral Coalition, of local and international Associations, Societies & Companies, representing Thousands of Creatives in Kenya and the World.” In common with its international counterparts – other anti-piracy groups fighting the same enemy – physically cracking down on illegal content suppliers is part of the overall strategy in Kenya.
According to local media reports, this week an operation headed by PAP, with assistance from the Kenya Police Cybercrime and Crime Scene Forensic Units, targeted a local internet service provider.
“This intervention has disrupted the illegal services provided to approximately 3,000 subscribers in the Kasarani-Mwiki- Santon areas, who were illegally accessing premium content, such as English Premier League (EPL), WWC and La Liga live sports through the WeCast App,” PAP said in a statement.
“The investigations revealed that the WeCast App is installed on the client’s mobile phone or digital television upon subscription to Lime Fiber internet, where login details are provided by the perpetrators.”
What’s the WeCast App and What Does it Do?
The term ‘WeCast’ is often associated with Chromecast/Miracast-style HDMI dongles, which allow users to cast images and videos from phones and tablets to bigger screens. Media statements and reports this week offer no further detail beyond ‘WeCast App’ but a WeCast-branded product does exist that could be an ideal fit for the described scenario.
WeCast for Android is described as a companion app for the WeCast Media content server API and on Google Play is helpfully named WeCastKe, KE being the country code for Kenya. On its own the app is legal but useless; couple it with a remote server configured to provide content, it’s ideal for receiving IPTV streams and VOD library playback.
This WeCast product was marketed towards the hotel market at some point but regardless of location or content, functionality doesn’t change. Whether it’s the product referenced in the Lime Fiber case remains to be seen, but software isn’t the key issue. Copyrighted content being distributed without a license appears to be the root of the allegations facing Lime Fiber.
Two People Arrested
Citing Kenya’s Copyright Act, one publication notes that copyright infringement can be a criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to 800,000 Kenyan Shillings (around US$5,100) and up to 10 years in prison.
In a statement published Thursday, Lime Fiber said there had been “some confusion” regarding its association with the WeCast App. The ISP said it is “not directly involved in providing content through the WeCast App” and it does not “control or manage” content available on third-party applications.
A company called Lime Emerging Solutions operates Lime Fiber and public records (including domain name records) link a person called Kahenya Kamunyu to both.
Whether there are one, two, or more people who share the same name in Kenya’s developing internet space, a specific Kahenya Kamunyu stands out as particularly interesting.
A publicly identifiable figure for over a decade, his internet development work – and what can only be described as a mission to disrupt the pay-TV market – has resulted in one Kahenya Kamunyu attracting a lot of attention.
In 2022, an article described him as a techpreneur who had successfully carved out a niche in the pay-TV sector. CNN listed him as one of Africa’s ’15 tech entrepreneurs to watch in 2014′ for his internet-based content streaming startup, Able Wireless.
Described as a “home-grown Netflix” it’s reported that the service was accessed via a Raspberry Pi-powered TV box. That’s a little different from the system allegedly offered by Lime Fiber but nevertheless, it appears that the Mr. Kamunya at Able Wireless wanted to bring a streaming service to Kenya a little more quickly than some had anticipated.
While a few years old by now, an interview with Mr. Kamunya about his Able Wireless business plan is available on YouTube. In brief, the idea was to go ahead with the streaming service regardless of content licensing, to prove to the content companies that a market they didn’t believe existed, actually did exist.
“We are already putting money aside for content so if anybody wants to come suing us we’ll tell them that their money is sitting in an account somewhere. We have an open platform for open statistics, they can come get the money,” he said.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.