The judgment delivered in Uganda against the former Kampala mayor, Nasser Sebaggala, regarding his quest to sue MTN and SMS media for using his voice (gotten from an interview he granted) as their call back ring tone, must have been very painful.
According to media reports, the plaintiff went to court seeking an injunction compelling the defendants to pay him 8 billion shillings, proceeds (seemingly) accrued from the use of his ‘voice’.
Amazingly, in a turn of events, the judge instead, ruled in favour of the defendants citing various sections relevant to the ruling.
“An interview with the media is not a private conversation; you cannot control how the recording was going to be used. Copyright in voice recording serves producers and Sebaggala did not give instructions on how his speech would to be used. He freely gave his answers for the consumption of the public and his words were not twisted. The author of the works has moral rights and the owner of the works has economic rights and the two can be merged. Sebaggala cannot be the author to a work he did not consent to and cannot prove the use of his voice was injurious to his character,”
Travesty of justice? Well, maybe. But as the legal saying goes, ‘ceteri paribus’, he can still appeal the case if he feels his right has not been duly enforced – the beauty of law.
The report went further that, the judge, basing his ruling on the definition of who an author is, stated thus: “Sebaggala is not the author of the work and therefore does not enjoy protection under copyright law and that he did not agree to performance rights and so cannot be classified as a Performer . Otherwise courts would be filled with cases of celebrities for every utterance they make”. He went further: “The third party is the creator of works. I have listened to the video recording, they are the same words of the plaintiff, some questions edited out and the Plaintiff testified that he knew he would be recorded and that he was responding to questions. He was recorded not by his own arrangement, but by the third party’s agents and he did not deliver a speech but was responding to various questions.”
Hopefully the former mayor and the other parties will be able to settle this amicably to forge a better relationship going forward.