The court of Appeal has suspended orders barring Safaricom from allowing its internet subscribers to stream football matches from 141 websites. Multichoice had sued Safaricom and Jamii Telcom for enabling illegal access to the content, alleging it is pirated from their Pay TV packages. According to Multichoice, the premium sports content is available on their Supersport Channel and should only be available to paying customers.
Multichoice DSTV and GoTv subscribers pay a monthly fee to access the content, while Safaricom and Jamii telcom Internet users only incur data costs. Safaricom and Jamii Telcom were taken to court because they sell home fibre allowing multiple users to log into the 141 sites where they can stream the sports a no extra cost.
In November 2020, the high court ordered the telcos to disable access to the sites after establishing that the act amounted to copyright infringement on Multichoice’s side.
Safaricom moved to the court of appeal, arguing that it stands to suffer irreparable damages should it comply with the orders. The telco cited likely repercussions such as civil and criminal lawsuits from customers and a tainted reputation in the global communications industry due to attempts to control its subscribers’ browsing behaviour. In addition, the rights of copyright holders would also be affected by the move.
“The upshot of the above is that Safaricom has satisfied the conditions for granting an order of stay of execution under Rule 5(2)(b) of the Court Rules, and deem it appropriate that we grant an order of stay of execution of the order of the High Court,” appeal court judges Hannah Okwengu, Fatuma Sichale and Jamila Mohammed said.
Multichoice has maintained that rebroadcasting and retransmitting its content without direct authorization was a breach of its rights. The Pay TV provider further said that Safaricom had not complied with the earlier high court order to block the sites but had already moved to appeal.