Peter* left his house in Kayole early Wednesday morning to open his movie business in the city centre. Hours later he was cooling his heels at central police station.
His fate is now a too familiar reality for movie shop owners whose businesses died due to raids by people who claim to be from the Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo).
The once thriving business that offered opportunities to youth is dying from the stranglehold of the industry’s regulator.
But the copyright board’s executive director Edward Sigei is taking no blame for killing movie shops. He told Nairobi News that the agency’s biggest headache is con men masquerading as its officers.
“Kecobo is not doing anything on that area as we speak. If they (victims) were never brought to NHIF (in Community) then its not us. There are many con men masquerading as Kecobo officers so I would advise the public to demand for identifications from people who come to them claiming to be from Kecobo,” Mr Sigei said.
A former movie shop owner, who has since turned his business into a liquor store, told Nairobi News he opted out due to the constant harassment.
“I had a license from the city county for Sh12, 000 but when Kecobo came they would ask me for Sh30, 000 accusing me of piracy and because I could not afford the money I spent countless nights in police cells. I had to change my business so as to avoid dealing with them ever again as they only target movie shops,” he said.
Besides the Kecobo raids, movie shop owners also have to contend with the spread of fiber cables in city estates that has made it easy to stream movies.
“Already business is down because of home fiber that people use to stream movies online and now we have to bribe Kecobo officers for our movie shops to survive yet they do not bring us specific complaints from producers whose movies they claim we have pirated,” he told Nairobi News.
On its social media accounts, the copyright board posts constant updates on its fight against piracy but has not specifically mentioned movie shops as violators.
The Kecobo officers who visit the movie shops never present any form of identification and never explain which law the owners have violated or which specific production company has raised a complaint.
“There is a time I was arrested and taken to court then because my lawyer came to the cells and was in court ready to challenge the piracy charges, no complainant showed up in court and the case was eventually thrown out,’ said one movie stall owner.
Nairobi News went to visit a movie shop owner we had interviewed last year along Tom Mboya Street. We found the stall vacant. Upon inquiring, we were told “he just closed his shop one day and said he was done with harassment.”