How to Copyright Your Books in Kenya

According to Investopedia, copyright refers to the legal right of the owner of intellectual property. In simpler terms, copyright is the right to copy. This means that the original creators of products and anyone they give authorization to are the only ones with the exclusive right to reproduce the work.

Copyright law gives creators of original material the exclusive right to further use and duplicate that material for a given amount of time, at which point the copyrighted item becomes public domain.

How Does Copyrighting Work?

When someone creates a product that is viewed as original and that required significant mental activity to create, this product becomes an intellectual property that must be protected from unauthorized duplication. For instance, this article is heavily borrowed from the copyright board of Kenya and other sources so I cannot copyright it 🙂 The work must be the original concepts of the author. Taking existing works and re-arranging the flow does not constitute original work.

Which Government Body is Responsible for Copyright in Kenya?

The Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) is a State Corporation under the Office of the Attorney General & the Department of Justice. It was established by section 3 of the Copyright Act 2001 and mandated with the administration and enforcement of copyright and related rights. The Board is responsible for organizing legislation on copyright and related rights; conducting training programmes on copyright and related rights; enlightening and informing the public on matters related to copyright; licensing and supervising the activities of collective management societies; and maintaining an effective databank on authors and their works.

Who are the members of KECOBO?

KECOBO is comprised of members drawn from both the public and private sectors.  The members from the private sector are nominated by associations representing software, producers of sound recordings, publishers, film distributors, performers, broadcasting stations, musicians and the audio-visual industry. There are four experts on copyright and related rights and five members who are alternates to the Attorney General, (Police Inspector General), Permanent Secretary – Ministry of Information, Permanent Secretary – Ministry of Sports, Culture and Arts, and the Permanent Secretary – Ministry of Finance.

What Does Copyright Apply To?

According to the KECOBO copyright protects the original expression of an idea that has been reduced to a tangible form and this includes transcript copies and copies made in the digital environment, from being copied without authorization.  It does not protect the concept or the idea. It also does not protect symbols, titles, short phrases or factual information that may be contained in a copyrighted work.
Copyright applies to any medium.  This means that you must not reproduce copyright protected work in another medium without permission.  This includes, publishing photographs on the internet, making a sound recording of a book, a painting of a photograph and so on. For this article, we will focus on:

  • Literary works, including novels, instruction manuals, computer programs, song lyrics, newspaper articles and some types of database
  • Layouts or typographical arrangements used to publish a work, for a book for instance
  • Recordings of a work, including sound and film
  • Broadcasts of a work

What Is Not Covered In Copyright?

Copyright does not protect the idea/concept but the expression of the idea. This is because one cannot have a monopoly over an idea. Copyright protection is automatic once an idea has been reduced to any tangible format. The Kenya Copyright Board offers notifications where although not a legal requirement allows rights holders to register their works. This helps in the creation of a database as well as assists in the enforcement of copyright.

Who Owns The Copyright?

The first ownership of a copyright work vests in the person who creates it. However, copyright like any other moveable property can be transferred through sale, licenses and testamentary disposition.  Under the Copyright Law;

  1. In the case of two authors, the two shall be known as the joint authors of the work.
  2. In the case of works created for hire or works created under a contract of employment, unless otherwise stated in a contract, the employer or the person who commissioned the work shall be the owner of the work.

How Long Does The Copyright Last?

The length of time a copyrighted work is protected will depend upon the category or type of work.

Literary Works (where books fall under)
Copyright in the above works lasts for the period of the life of the author plus fifty years.

Audio-visual works (where audiobooks fall under)
Fifty years from the end of the year in which the work was either made, first made available to the public, or first published, whichever date is the latest.

What Happens After That?

Once the term of protection of copyright expires, the work falls into the public domain.   

What If My Book’s Copyright is Violated?

According to its website, The Kenya Copyright Board is mandated to enforce copyright and related rights in Kenya. The Board currently has a legal and enforcement department that has 5 prosecutors and 10 copyright inspectors. 

The prosecutors are lawyers who are highly specialised in copyright and related rights.

The inspectors are attached from the National Police Service and trained in investigation of copyright and related rights. Enforcement also included training and awareness creation in collaboration with various government agencies such as the National Police Service, the Department of Weights and Measures, the Judiciary, the Anti-Counterfeit Agency as well as the rights holders.



Step 1: Finish writing and publishing your book. Make sure that there is editorial excellence and the design work is appealing. You have to give it 110%. You can get the input on expertise in the industry ie Editors and Designers.

Step 2: Fill in the copyright registration forms that can be downloaded from the KECOBO website via this link Copyright Registration Form Download and fill in all the necessary details.

If a publishing house or another agency is registering a work on behalf of an individual or organisation (an agent) is required to produce an authority letter, from the owner of the work, authorizing him/her to act as an agent for purposes of registration and/or any other purposes as far as pertains to such works. Companies/ individuals registering works on behalf of companies MUST produce the company’s Certificate of Incorporation.

Step 3: Have the forms commissioned by a commissioner of oaths. A Commissioner for Oaths is a person who is authorized to verify affidavits, statutory declarations and other legal documents. Affidavits are statements in writing and on oath, and statutory declarations are written statements of facts that the person signs and declares to be true. In Kenya, it will cost you as little as Kes 500 to get the service from an authorized official.

Step 4: Attach two original copies of your book so that KECOBO know exactly what you are copyrighting.

Step 5: Deposit Kes 1,000 non-refundable fee to KECOBO via their authorized bank or via Mpesa paybill number. Make sure you make the bank deposit directly into the bank and not through bank agents. The KECOBO bank account/Mpesa Paybill details can be found on their website via this link here.

Step 6: Present the bank deposit slip at the reception of the Kenya Copyright Board, where a receipt will
be issued. Their offices are at 5th Floor, NHIF Building, Ragati Road. Mobile: 0713761758/ 0739062643
Tel:- +254 20 253 3859/69. Email: Facebook: Kenya Copyright Board. Twitter: @kenyaCopyright.


Recently, KECOBO has moved the copyright process online (a very much welcome move in this digital era). You can create your account from and submit your work virtually.

Do you need further clarification? Write to us at We help authors acquire copyright for their books at a small fee.

2 comments On How to Copyright Your Books in Kenya

  • Copywriting a book is really very important. The steps provided by you in this article will surely help the original writer of the book to preserve all the rights of the book. This article will definitely help many people. Thank you for sharing this article with us. I have gained a lot of knowledge through this article.

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