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Ringtone case: Sebaggala wants Shs8b

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By  Juliet Kigongo

Posted  Tuesday, June 17  2014 at  01:00

In Summary

In his explanation, Sebaggala said his calculations added up to Shs35 billion, from the over 10 million customers of MTN, multiplied by Shs500 as the cost for each ringtone.

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KAMPALA- Former Kampala Mayor Nasser Sebaggala has asked MTN Uganda and SMS Media to pay him Shs8 billion in a mobile ringtone case where he claims his copyright was infringed.

Mr Sebaggala was appearing before Justice Christopher Madrama of the High Court- Commercial Division yesterday.

However, the Shs8 billion claimed by Mr Sebggala was contested by the SMS Media lawyer, Mr Peter Kauma, who asked him to explain how he came up with the figure.

In his explanation, Sebaggala said his calculations added up to Shs35 billion, from the over 10 million customers of MTN, multiplied by Shs500 as the cost for each ringtone.

Mr Sebaggala said: “MTN kept on boasting that it had over 10 million customers. I did my simple maths, multiplied and came up with Shs8 billion.”

However, Mr Kauma dismissed Mr Sebaggala’s claims on grounds that they were baseless, stating that Mr Sebaggala was not entitled to such a huge amount of money.

‘English barrier’
Mr Sebaggala’s request to give his testimony in Luganda, a language he was well conversant, with fell on deaf ears.

Justice Madrama insisted that Mr Sebaggala’s testimony be given in English, the court language and in the event that Mr Sebaggala found challenges with the language, an interpreter would be sought. Subsequently, Mr Sebaggala proceeded and completed his testimony in English without much difficulty.

The case was filed on July 13, 2012, with the presidential adviser accusing MTN of infringing on his copyright by using his voice recordings in various ringtones without his permission.

The contentious ringtones, numbering four, were extracted from oral statements made in 2011 at Parliament at the time Mr Sebaggala was a ministerial nominee.

SMS Media, which produced the recordings and transmitted them to MTN, is a third party in the case.

According to Mr Sebaggala, each caller tune cost Shs500, and was valid for 30 days. However, MTN has since abandoned trade of the ringtones.

When MTN’s lawyer Peter Kabatsi quizzed on whether he would pay a person who appears for an interview on his radio station, KIIS Fm, Mr Sebaggala said he would do so if an agreement is reached to that effect.

Asked by Mr Kabatsi why he did not sue the media houses which interviewed him and relayed the information, Mr Sebaggala explained that the media houses were disseminating information to the public on what had transpired at the vetting.

The case was adjourned to October 14 for further hearing and to enable the defendants to compile both audio and video evidence.

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