Court has summoned Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to defend a Shs5 billion claim by singer as payment for copyright for ‘Another rap’ song used in 2011 presidential elections.
The Commercial Division of the High Court said that the plaintiff, Richard Kawesa has instituted a case against Museveni.
“You are required to file defence in the said suit within 15 days from the date of service of summons on you in the manner prescribed under the Civil Procedures Rules. Should you fail to file a defence on or about the date mentioned, the plaintiff may proceed with the suit and judgment may be given in your absence,” reads the court summons signed by the court registrar on March 7 this year.
The court summons follows a March 6 complaint in which Kawesa is seeking for an order for compensation of royalties for unauthorized use and registration by Museveni of the musical works.
Through Muwema and Advocates, Kawesa sued Museveni jointly with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau against whom orders are being sought to cancel or expunge from the register, Museveni’s copyright registration in respect of the musical works.
“An order for a permanent injunction restraining the first defendant (Museveni) from further use/exploitation and infringement of copyright in the musical works,” reads the complaint seeking for an alternative order as payment for reasonable and adequate remuneration with a 21 percent interest per year from October 2010.
Kawesa a renowned singer is a front runner of East Africa’s Music industry specializing in African World music that has featured sound tracks in international movies such as the first Grader and the last King of Scotland (2006).
He claims that he released five albums before the October 9 2010 event for the launch of the ‘I am Ugandan campaign’ held at State House in Entebbe graced by President Museveni who sang two Kinyankole folk songs as a mock to challenge Hip hop artist GNL Zamba who had performed at the event.
“The plaintiff then suggested to the first defendant (Museveni), that with some production work, this could be turned into a hip hop song which would make him famous. Whereas the first defendant did not fully appreciate and sound the possibility of the plaintiff making him more famous, through music, he nonetheless gave him a go ahead,” he states.
He alleges that through production house of Fenon Records together with a team of producers and some engineers assembled him, added a blend of signature melodies to words picked out of Museveni’s speech made on October 9 2010 and infused them with additional studio voices for the chorus.
He contends that the transposition gave birth to a new song which became famously known as ‘Another rap.’
“As a sign of endorsement of the project, the first defendant (Museveni) was later consulted on the final edit of the song before it was officially released on the mainstream and social media channels. The final edit of the song was sent to the first defendant under his instruction by email to the then Principal Private Secretary, State House, Ms Grace Akello on or about October 2010,” Kawesa states.
He adds that the song in dispute became an instant sensation on the Internet, dance clubs and increased both Museveni’s local and international brand recognition which commanded respectable media attention.
Kawesa contends that a visit of the several websites and links will attest to how the song made Mr Museveni the first iconic hip hop president and stands him in good stead with celebrated hip hop artists like Kanye West.
“The song also helped the first defendant garner a sizeable proportion of the much sought after youth and middle age votes as it increased his appeal to them. This greatly contributed to his electoral victory in the 2011 presidential elections as it provided the much needed antidote to the electoral challenges that would have been,” he says.
According to the complaint, the Another rap song became a popular ringtone on all mobile telecommunication platforms and enhanced the top of the mind awareness of Museveni’s brand to the Ugandan populace while making billions of Shillings in royalty fees in the process.
“Notwithstanding, the plaintiff’s efforts, the first defendant took all moral and economic rights to the said song and even registered its copyright with the second defendant (URSB) without recognizing the plaintiff’s associate band of rights as an author, director and producer of the works,” says Kawesa.
He adds that his work was so critical in the creation of copyright in the musical works of another rap as his effort and skill of converting the song from a non-fixated traditional cultural expression to a new arrangement of works different from the traditional folklore subsisting the public domain was sole reason for Mr Museveni’s application for copyright in the song was allowed.
In October 30 2018, Kawesa issued a demand notice to Museveni claiming for Shs5 billion as payment for copyright for ‘Another rap’.
The notice suggested that it was legal and equitable that Kawesa and his team comprising of Henry Kiwuwa, Robert Segawa and Steve Jean be paid adequately compensated for creation and production of the said song.
According to the demand notice, Kawesa states that he is aware of Article 98 of the Constitution through which a sitting as president enjoys immunity from legal proceedings but asked Mr Museveni to treat the notice as an invitation to amicably settle and consider resolution of the matter.
In a December 20 letter to M/s Muwema and Company Advocates, the lawyers of KTA Advocates said that they are acting for Mr Museveni whom they described as the copyright owner of the work comprised in the song in dispute.
“The copyright owner has placed in our hands a letter dated October 30, 2018 in regards to the subject in which you contest ownership of the work,” reads the letter by KTA Advocates.
The Museveni lawyers said they are studying the contents of the letter and that they would ‘respond soon.’
“Kindly hold any anticipated action till we respond,” reads the letter copied to Mr Museveni and the director for Intellectual Property at the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB).
By David Sseguya