Maurice Kirya drags MTN to court over copyright
Asks for shs500m from the telecom giant
By Betty Amamukirori and Barbra Kabahumuza
Ugandan artist Maurice Kirya has dragged telecom giant, MTN to the commercial court demanding for sh500m for copyright infringement.
In a statement sworn by his lawyers from Galisonga and Co. Advocates, the singer realized in January this year that the telecom company was offering some of his songs to its subscribers and to all the numbers that call its subscribers, as a call back tune at a fee, without his consent.
“The subscribers and all callers to the subscribers of the defendant (MTN) can access and use the call back ring tunes by payment which is done by deduction of the money payable directly from the airtime of such person purchasing the song,” reads part of the suit.
Kirya said that in order to further confirm that MTN was using his songs, he subscribed for the service and requested particularly for one of his songs which was given to him after deducting his airtime as payment for the caller tune.
“Consequently the plaintiff (Kirya) wrote to the defendant (MTN) complaining about their conduct which amounted to unjust enrichment from his work of art and requested for compensation but the defendant ignored the same,” the suit further reads.
Some of the songs he alleges that the company sells to its subscribers are, Misubbawa which was coded as 5022233, Mulembe gwa Kirya-5023730, Die for you-5023481 and Don’t cry-5023482.
He said that even after paying for the ring tune, MTN has continuously renewed the tune while deducting his airtime.
Kirya said through selling his songs as caller tunes the company attracted several customers to its network and has earned substantially but did not pay him anything.
He said that the company’s actions amounted to unjust enrichment and caused him loss of income to a tune of sh500m.
He said that he is ready to prove before court that he has lost market for his songs and is no longer called for concerts and performances because his songs can easily be downloaded by the telecom subscribers who are also his fans.
Kirya wants MTN to be condemned to pay punitive damages for its conduct and alleged willful disregard of the law when it used his songs to expand its market share and profit margin.
The case was filed on June 17, 2016.
Kirya wants court to declare that MTN infringed on his copyright and the resultant income it got amounted to unjust enrichment. He also wants court to compel MTN to pay sh500m as general damages.
Court, in its move to see that the matter is resolved expeditiously, has given MTN 15 days to file its response or else the case is heard and decided in its absence.