The Kenya Copyright Board have urged writers to avoid a new campaign from Cadbury Kenya on August 23, 2021.

Cadbury, famous for selling confectionaries like chocolate, is one of the biggest corporations around with offices in dozens of countries. The company in South Africa decided that they would get in the writing space with the “Our Own Words” campaign. The campaign run in conjunction with Nali’bali, was about translating children’s books between languages with payment for those who participated.

Cadbury in Kenya decided to get into the game and they made a callout for with their own version of “Our Own Words.” Their introduction to the concept had the following introduction;

Two thirds of Kenyan parents say Africa is not truthfully represented in their children’s books. Take a moment and reflect on that. We at Cadbury Dairy Milk want to change this, with a little bit of glass in every Kenyan. From ‘Hekaya za Babu’ to stories told by the evening fire or in our kitchen. We want to ignite a love for reading in children by making contemporary Kenyan story books they can relate to available for everyone. However, we need the generous intent of Kenyans to make it happen. By writing your own original Kenyan story book, you could be part of helping co – author 150 books that will live on our website, for anyone to download, read and enjoy. This is just the first chapter of the journey, grab a pen and turn pages.

There was a bit of excitement in the Kenyan writing community until they read the terms and conditions of the project. Participating means that you are not entitled to any payment which is quite common while dealing with Kenyan corporations; in fact you are donating your story to the billion dollar corporation. They were not only denying you monetary compensation but they even deprive you of another famous “currency” that corporations love talking about called “exposure.” This is because “stories submitted on the website are subject to copyright and may not be used for commercial purposes unless permission is granted by the promoter and Sisi Afrika.”

So you give you work away for free and if you decide one day to monetise it you must ask the billion dollar corporation and its local lackies for permission to do so. While the South African branch was happy to pay for work, the Kenyan equivalent opted to shaft its people.

As you can imagine, the local writing community was not amused by this callout out and immediately went on the warpath. The best place to see this anger was on Twitter with several showing anger at someone daring to treat writers so poorly.

It seems like the Kenyan Copyright Board heard its people and yesterday announced that they had written to the multinational to either review their terms or withdraw it completely. This is because the “campaign requires authors to forfeit their moral rights to be recognised as an author in connection with their work as well as economic rights in their literary work in return for a mere thank you note.”

In the press release signed by the board Executive Director Edward Sigei sent to news rooms they referenced the law in their arguments;

“Article 40 of the Kenyan constitution guarantees the right to property of any description which includes intellectual property of which copyright is one. The owner of a copyright work owns both economic and moral rights to the work. While economic rights can be transferred for a renumeration under section 26 of the Copyright Act, moral rights under Section 32 of the act are not transferable under any circumstance.”

The first surprising thing that we learn from this press release is that there is a body in Kenya that is aimed at dealing with this issue. We live and learn.

We await from Cadbury on their revamped campaign, or their withdrawal from the space.