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Publishers embroiled in Kenya copyright row

NAIROBI, Kenya Oct 9 – The High Court has temporarily barred a publishing firm from putting out or selling a Kiswahili book Kamusi Kamili Ya Kiswahili.

Milimani Commercial Court judge Martha Koome has issued the order following an application by Oxford University Press (EA) Ltd which is challenging the move by Longhorn Publishers(K) Ltd to publish the book which allegedly contains words, definitions, notes, summaries and illustrations which are an imitation, and represent a substantial part of the plaintiffs books namely Kamusi Ya Kiswahili Sanifu and Kamusi Ya Shule Za Msingi.

Oxford publishing firm is accusing Longhorn publishers of copying and imitation without consent or acknowledgment to the plaintiff.

“The entire defendant’s book which has been published extensively is an infringing copy of the plaintiffs original work and is the property of the plaintiff which the defendants have converted to their own issue,” said lawyer David Michuki.

The plaintiff says that the publication of said books by the defendant for purposes of trade had caused confusion in the minds of the public between it and the plaintiff’s work.

Longhorn, Oxford argues, has further infringed its copyright by offering a large number of copies of their work for the sale and distribution since the first half of this year.

Oxford has named John Kiango, James Mdee, Adam Shafi and Kimani Njogu as respondents. They are the co-authors of the book Kamusi Kamili Ya Kiswahili.
Mr Michuki argued that in creating the said works, his client had over the years expended sufficient effort in time and resources (both human and financial) to give the works an original character to afford it protection under section 22 of the Copy Right Act.

On May 24 2006, the plaintiff contracted Kiango to co-author its book Kamusi Ya Shule Za Msingi and under the agreement the defendant granted Oxford exclusive right and license to produce and publish the work.

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Then on or about June 14 this year, the plaintiff noticed in the market a book titled Kamusi Kamili Ya Kiswahili published by Longhorn and co-authored by the defendants being offered for sale. The work allegedly represents a substantial part of the plaintiff’s books.

Oxford is seeking damages for infringement of copyright and conversion, an account of the profits to the defendants and delivery up to the plaintiffs for destruction all copies of the defendants said work in the possession of any of the defendants or their agents.

The publishing firm is also seeking damages against the Kiango for breach of contract. Justice Koome ordered parties to file and serve affidavits and skeleton arguments pending hearing on November 11.


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