A British Company has copyrighted Kenya’s national anthem

In December, a petition calling for Walt Disney to release its trademark on the words “Hakuna Matata” attracted more than 40,000 signatures

Patriotic Kenyans this week woke up to their country’s national anthem as the property of a British firm, no longer Kenya’s.

This came after a Kenyan YouTuber’s video ranking the continent’s best national anthems – which included Kenya’s – was flagged down over copyright infringement.

The content creator – who runs the ‘2nacheki’ channel – claimed he was informed that AdRev Publishing had registered the complaint on behalf of De Wolfe Music, a British company which, as it emerges, owns the rights to the Kenyan National Anthem.

In a statement released following the uproar, Kenya Copyright Board, KECOBO, has since acknowledged that “the government has copyright for its commissioned works for up to 50 years,” which, in the case of the National Anthem, reportedly lapsed in 2013 and was left unreviewed.

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“The National Anthem is over 50 years and has thus fallen into public domain. However, given the place of National Anthem in any country and the provisions of the National Flags, Emblems and Names Act (Cap 99 laws of Kenya) there is additional protection of the anthem against misuse and improper use,” read the statement.

“Under that Act, the use of the National Anthem, emblems, names and other similar symbols is restricted and its use shall be subject to written permission by the minister in charge of interior.”

The copyright body further noted that amendments needed to be made to the Copyright Act to ensure that the use of national symbols and government works remain subject to authorization even where copyright expires.

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“KECOBO is at the moment studying the terms and conditions in YouTube platform with a view to requesting for takedown of all content offending the National Anthem by the said company and others as well,” added the statement.

“In addition, there are consultations between KECOBO and relevant state departments on legal and administrative measures to prevent unauthorized copyright claim on the National Anthem now and in future.”

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