Nairobi News


You risk 10 years in jail for sharing PDF copies of newspapers on social media

Kenyans have been warned of a possible 10-year jail term for anyone found guilt of sharing PDF copies of newspapers on social media.

Kenya Copyrights Board (Kecobo) executive director Edward Sigei on Saturday said that there has been an increase of digital publications being forwarded on social media.


Kecobo says both the sender and the recipient are committing an offence of being in possession of unauthorised digital copies and those found guilty could face up to 10 years in prison.

“Anyone who tries to circumvent technical protection measures placed on digital platforms to access these works and downloads commits an offence,” said Sigei.

Repeat offender could face up to 10 times the market value of the copyright product shared or Sh2000 for each infringing copy. Alternatively, the guilty could face a jail term of 20 years.

Various publications are forwarded on WhatsApp groups, Telegram, Facebook or Twitter, which, according to Kecobo, has led to a significant drop in income by some media houses.

Since the onset of digital publishing, the 4th estate has made available copies of its newspapers online at a cost.

According to the Copyrights Act of 2001, distributing the papers online is a crime, the suspects would have to pay a fine five times the market product of each shared copyrighted product or Sh1,000 for each infringing product.

Articles 11 and 40 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 places obligation on the government of Kenya to support, promote and protect the intellectual property rights of the people of Kenya.

The criminal acts include offence of circumvention of technical protection devices by way of hacking into ICT systems; making copies by downloading newspaper files and selling or illegal distribution of the illegally obtained content through all forms of social media as well as emails.


For one to share the newspaper articles through any of the above means, they require the express authority of the rights holder, in this case, the media company that owns the newspaper.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected the newspaper business, especially after the government imposed cessation of movement in a number of counties, including Nairobi and Mombasa.

However, people have continued to enjoy stories done by the newspapers through free online distribution, which has made the media companies lose millions of money.

Sigei disclosed that a major local publication had registered a complaint with Kecobo.

“We are currently tracking about four people who are thought to be mainly responsible for this,” he said.

Apart from losing significant revenue from illegal online sales, the papers’ reputation has also come under siege.

In some cases, malicious people have deliberately twisted the original headlines and shared them on digital platforms.

However, stopping online distribution could prove to be uphill task for Kecobo, as online platforms in Kenya are largely unregulated.