International news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) has sued Nairobi Star Publications Limited, publishers of the The Star newspaper for infringement of copyright.

The Paris-based news agency is seeking a permanent injunction restraining The Star directors, servants or agents from copying its literally work from its website.

AFP, through the firm of Oraro and Company Advocates, also wants the court to order for delivery and forfeiture of all infringing copies of the agency’s work or in the alternative, destruction upon oath of all copied materials.

Further, the agency is seeking an inquiry of damages and an account of profits made by the publication on the copyrighted materials. The Star has not filed its documents in defence of the suit.

AFP is pleading with the court to order for the payments found to be due to it upon the inquiry together with accrued interest and any other relief the court may deem just.

The news agency is accusing The Star, owned by Radio Africa, of infringing its copyright by reproducing and authorising the reproduction of substantial portions of its literally work without seeking prior written authority. AFP says in court documents that despite having entered into various subscription agreements with several websites and licensed media houses all over the world allowing them access to real time news stories, The Star has no such arrangements relating to the use of its stories.

The global news gatherer alleges that The Star has published five articles without its permission and has refused to admit liability despite demand and notice of intention to sue having been issued. “Unless restrained by a c*********r, the newspaper threatens and intends to continue and repeat the acts of infringement complained of, whereby the plaintiff will suffer loss and damage,” says AFP in suit papers filed at the Commercial division of the High Court.

AFP’s complaint is on the copyrighted stories published by The Star between July 5 and 9, 2010 titled: ‘In Uganda, football fans miss General Idi Amin’s era’, ‘Magic World Cup Python seized’, ‘Unearthed tools re-write saga of human migration’, ‘Solar Plane makes 26 hour flight’ and another published on October 13, 2008 entitled, ‘No negotiation, says Alfred Mutua’.

AFP Nairobi Bureau Chief Boris Bachorz says in an affidavit that after their commercial manager realised the newspaper had copyrighted the stories, he wrote to The Star managing director William Pike notifying him of the infringement. Mr Bachorz claims Mr Pike wrote back AFP saying the newspaper had obtained the infringed material from Yahoo News but the new agency pointed out to him that Yahoo was one of its clients. Mr Pike, according to Mr Bachorz, finally acknowledged in an email that the newspaper had used the material without authority and undertook to ensure that the same would not be repeated or would use the stories from AFP upon authorisation.

But according to AFP, The Star has continued to use its materials without express authority. AFP says it is only able to remain in business due to strict obedience and enforcement of intellectual property rights and laws by various governments all over the world and if not protected, would be unable to meet its overhead costs.

“These costs which include staff wages, equipment expenses, travelling and accommodation expenses are paid for from the income generated from subscription fees paid by various news and press agencies without which we cannot be in business,” argues the Bureau Chief in his sworn statement. AFP is among the top three news agencies in the world alongside Associated Press and Reuters.

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