Uganda: Sebaggala Cannot Claim Ringtones Copyright, Says MTN


Telecom operator MTN has dismissed claims that it infringed on the copyright of ex-Kampala Mayor Al Haji Nasser Ntege Sebaggala by using his speech recordings as ringtones.

MTN's rebuttal is contained in its written statement of defence in response to a suit filed by Sebaggala. The ex-Mayor claims the telecom operator has infringed on his copyright by using his speeches as ringtones, without his authorisation. Sebaggala sued MTN last July.

But in its defence filed on August 10 at the Commercial Court in Kampala, MTN acknowledges that the recording is indeed Sebaggala's voice but contends that he did not make the recording nor did he acquire any copyright for the speeches.

"The plaintiff (Sebaggala) is not the author or the physical person who created work of the sounding recording or ringtones, and as such is not entitled to protection under the copyright law," MTN contends.

Additionally through Kampala Associated Advocates, MTN asserts that Sebaggala's speeches were publicly broadcast as current news of public interest and political events. MTN notes that Sebaggala was an active participant both as the then Mayor and ministerial nominee.

The telecom operator explains that Sebagala cannot claim ownership loss since the sound recordings are the product of the person who fine-tuned the speech into transferable material.

"Consequently, the plaintiff did not and could not have suffered any loss or damage as alleged or at all for which he seeks general general, exemplary and aggravated damages, and any claim for damages in the circumstances are remote and unsustainable," MTN contends.

The telecom giant further absolves itself of any wrongdoing, stating that the ringtones were procured and uploaded by SMS Media Limited, which signed a service provision agreement with MTN.

Sebaggala is demanding for all the proceeds collected by MTN in relation to the ringtones. He is demanding an audit to ascertain the money collected by MTN. Each caller tune costs sh500, and is valid for 30 days.

The ex-Mayor also wants a 20% monthly interest on the ascertained audited figure, together with a 20% monthly interest on damages and costs of the suit, from the date of judgement until full payment.

The case file has been allocated to Justice Christopher Madrama. However, a hearing date is yet to be fixed.