Former mayor sues MTN over ringtone allegations

Giant network operator MTN is on the spotlight following claims by former Kampala mayor Al Haji Nasser Ntege Sebaggala that the telco turned his speech into ringtones without his consent.

MTN has however dismissed the claims in a commercial court in Uganda’s capital Kampala saying the plaintiff, Sebaggala, is not the author or the physical person who worked on the sounding ringtones and therefore does not have protection rights as stipulated by the copyright law.

MTN however admits that the recording is Sebaggala’s voice but claims he did not make nor acquire any copyright for the speeches adding that the said speeches were publicly broadcasted as any other political event or news of public interest.

The company also argued that the ringtones rightfully belonged to the person who edited them into transferable material.

The former Kampala mayor however went ahead to sue MTN demanding all the proceeds it collect in relation to the ringtones. He also demands an investigation to ascertain the money collected on the sale of the tones. Each of the caller tune costs USh500 (20US cents) with a 30-day validity.

Sebaggala in addition wants a 20 percent monthly interest on the ascertained audited figure along with another 20 percent monthly interest on damages and costs of the suit from the date of the trial proceedings until full payment.

MTN says he could not have suffered any loss or damage as stated and seek compensation if the circumstances were remote and unsustainable, adding that they are not the ones to blame since the ringtone was acquired and uploaded by SMS Media Limited, a company they signed a service agreement with.

Justice Christopher Madrama has been assigned the case. The date of the hearing has not yet been determined.

Sebaggala won the first direct elections for mayor of Kampala in 1998, after which he vied for the presidential candidature in 2006 Uganda’s general election before pulling out to view for the Kampala mayoral seat.

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