The use of the country’s national anthem, flag or any other national symbol for professional and commercial purposes may soon be a crime punishable in court, if a Bill seeking to safeguard them from abuse is approved by Parliament.
The Senate, in a Bill sponsored by Baringo senator William Cheptumo, wants all individuals or entities found misusing the national anthem or the national flag penalized, fined or punished in court.
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Cheptumo, who is also the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence, argues that both the anthem and the flag are symbols of national unity and should therefore not be used for personal, professional or commercial gain by anyone.
As such, the senator wants an amendment to be made on the National Anthem Copyright Laws in the country, to protect and reserve the copyright of both the anthem, the flag and any other symbol of national unity to the national government.
Through the National Anthem Copyright Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2023, senator Cheptumo, argues that while the current National Flag, Emblems and Names Act, Cap. 99 Laws of Kenya protects the anthem and flag from abuse, their copyright is time bound.
He says that the copyright laws which were enacted in 1963, only gave a time limit of 50 years, after which the copyright of the two as well as any other symbol of national unity can thereafter be open to abuse by individuals and other entities.
The proposed Bill therefore, seeks to amend the National Flag, Emblems and Names Act, Cap. 99 Laws of Kenya and the Copyright Act, 2001 so as to safeguard the National Anthem from abuse upon the expiry of the fifty years.
The Bill seeks to ensure that the National Anthem’s copyright is vested in the government.
“The principal object of this Bill is to amend the National Flag, Emblems and Names Act, Cap. 99 Laws of Kenya to ensure that the National Anthem is safeguarded,” says Cheptumo.
The National Flag, Emblems and Names Act, Cap. 99 Laws at present, seeks to among other things, prevent the improper use of the National Flag and of certain emblems, names, words and likenesses for professional and commercial purposes and to prohibit the display of certain flags.
On the other hand, the Copyright Act, No. 12 of 2001 makes provision for copyright in literary, musical and artistic works, audio-visual works, sound recordings, broadcasts.
Section 25 of the Copyright Act, 2001 provides copyright in works of government and international bodies.
Section 25(2) provides that copyright conferred on a literary, musical, dramatic or artistic work of the Government and international bodies shall subsist until the end of the expiration of fifty years from the end of the year in which it was first published, the senator adds in the Bill.
And to help effect these changes, the Bill proposes the amendment of The National Flag, Emblems and Names Act as well as the Copyright Act to reserve all copyright in the national anthem, other national symbols and any works or music relating to the national anthem or national symbols to the national government.
“Notwithstanding the provisions of this Act, copyright in the National Anthem and other national symbols shall be subject to the National Flags, Emblems and Names Act,” the Bill argues.