George Kakoma’s family loses Sh50m compensation claim

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By Paul Waiswa

Justices Elizabeth Musoke, Fredrick Egonda-Ntende and Hellen Obura have unanimously resolved that the Sh2,000 paid to Prof Kakoma in 1962 as a reward in appreciation for his composition of a song that was later adopted as the National Anthem is enough and therefore  deserves no more pay.

As such,t he court of Appeal has cancelled the UGX 50 million award that the High court had given to the late Prof George William Kakoma as loyalties for composing the Uganda National Anthem

 “Any payments made to Prof Kakoma including Sh2,000 in relation to the composition of the song in issue was a reward to the composer of the song,” the justices ruled. Adding that “The award of Sh50 million which was granted to the appellant (Prof Kakoma) in Civil Suit No.197 of 2008 had no legal basis and is hereby set aside”.

The justices ruled that the composition of the song that was eventually adopted as the National Anthem by Prof Kakoma in 1962 was done under the direction and control of the government at the time as its copyright was accordingly vested in the government of Uganda.

Court ruled that the copyright, which was consigned in the government of Uganda, enjoyed legal protection for fifty years, which expired in 2012 thus the musical composition entered into the public domain.

Referring to the Black’s Law Dictionary 8th edition, the justices ruled that when copyright, trademark, patent or trade-secret rights are lost or expire, the intellectual property they had protected becomes part of the public domain and can be appropriated by anyone without liability for infringement.

“Accordingly the composition no longer enjoys copyright protection and can be used freely by the public,” court ruled.

The justices ruled that they would dismiss this appeal with no order as to costs as it relates to a matter whose resolution is of public importance. Prof George William Kakoma died on April 8, 2012 aged 89.

After his composition had been adopted as a national Anthem for nearly 50years, in 2008, Prof. Kakoma dragged government to court seeking to be paid compensation, loyalties and damages for violation of his copyright.

He had also sought an injunction against Government from singing his song on state functions before paying him. In 2010, however the High court judge Yorokamu Bamwine disallowed most of Prof. Kakoma’s prayers and instead awarded him Shs50 million as loyalties for his composition having realised that the Sh2000 paid to him in 1962 was too little and unbefitting.

However having been dissatisfied with the Sh50 m award, Prof. Kakoma appealed but unfortunately before his appeal could be disposed of, he passed on leaving his widow Mary Teresa Kakoma to prosecute it.

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