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Bamboo: I was broke when I sued Safaricom for copyright for my songs

Former rapper, Bamboo-The African Bantu, has labelled his copyright infringement case victory against telecom giant Safaricom as a win for the music industry.

After nine years in the corridor of justice, Lady Justice Asenath Nyaboke found Safaricom guilty of using three songs of the ‘Usilete Compe’ hitmaker for commercial gains without his authorization.

In her ruling, the High Court assessed and awarded Bamboo general damages totalling to Sh4.5 million for the three records.

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Bamboo first moved to court in December 2015, filing the civil case No.445 against Safaricom and two premium rate service providers (PRSP) Bensoft Interactive Limited, owned by software engineer Bernard Kioko and Nigerian-owned Mtech Communication Limited, which appointed William Kibiwot Chesire as its Chief Executive Officer.

The 42-year-old businessman accused the three companies of using his songs Mama Africa remix (2005) featuring renowned American-Senegalese singer and record producer Akon, Yes Indeed (2005), and Move On featuring the one-time top charting hip-hop group Camp Mulla (2012).without his consent to generate revenue while he was left on the fringe.

Safaricom picked the three songs from third parties (the two prsp) and placed them on its Skiza platform cashing in from the records from 2009 to 2014 without paying him a single cent. Safaricom only stopped selling the records when Bamboo wrote to the telecom giant a demand letter.

Speaking to Nairobi News, Bamboo says when he filed the case nine years ago, he had already given up on music, having been in the game for over a decade by then.

“I had given up on music. It wasn’t paying me at all. In fact, my music has never paid me. I guess with the High Court ruling, this will be the very first time my music will be paying me.”

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Bamboo, who is singer Victoria Kimani’s elder brother, says filling the case was also a struggle.

“I had to borrow some money, add to my little savings to file the case at the High court which was Sh75,000. I was broke, that’s why I stopped doing music in the first place, but was determined to see it through because I believed I was on the right side of things,”

With the court case dragging, he almost gave up at some point.

“I honestly contemplated giving up because every time Justice (Joseph) Sergon would adjourn the case before it was picked up by Justice Nyaboke. Imagine riding on nduthi (boda boda) every single time to court or having to borrow some money to get to the court and the case would be adjourned. It used to wear me off but somehow that’s what’s gave me the zeal to keep pushing,”

As he awaits Safaricom to cut him his cheque, Bamboo only hopes his win has set a precedent on matters of Intellectual Property.

“This verdict sends a powerful message about the importance of intellectual property rights and reinforces the legal protections provided to creators and innovators. It underscores that no entity, no matter how large, is above the law and that anyone who attempts to profit by stealing or copying the hard work of others will be held accountable.”

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