By Andante Okanya
The court hearing between Haji Nasser Ntege Sebaggala and telecom operator MTN over ringtones copyright ownership, is scheduled to commence next year on February 3.
The date was fixed on Monday by presiding judge Christopher Madrama, when the parties to the case appeared at the Commercial Court in Kampala.
Ssebaggala was absent but was represented by his lawyers Nelson Walusimbi and Alan Musoke of Walusimbi and Company Advocates.
Also present was MTN lawyer Paul Kuteesa of Kampala Associated Advocates, while SMS Media was represented by lawyer Paul Kauma of Kiwanuka and Karugire Advocates.
The presidential advisor accuses MTN of infringing on his copyright by using his voice recording in various ringtones. SMS Media, which produced the recordings and transmitted them to MTN, is also a party in the case.
Copyright infringement refers to unauthorised use of works owned by a copyright holder who enjoys exclusive rights.
In the suit filed last year on July 13, Sebaggala is demanding for all proceeds from the sale of the ringtones. Each caller tune costs sh500, and is valid for 30 days.
The judge was prompted to set the hearing date, after the lawyers explained that they had disagreed on the documents that the parties intend to use.
Walusimbi said Kuteesa declined to receive Ssebaggala’s documents highlighting his contentious points.
However, Kuteesa defended his action, saying he did so, since an amended plaint detailing Ssebaggala’s fresh evidence, was not attached.
Consequently, the judge fixed the hearing date, noting that he had observed that the parties had failed to agree on how to proceed, despite a series of meeting held.
“Hearing is fixed for February 3, 2014 at 9:30am.Under civil procedure rules, counsels are obliged to file a joint scheduling. The trial bundle must be filed at least two weeks before the hearing date,” Madrama ordered.
MTN in its defence acknowledges that although the recording contains Sebaggala's voice, he did not produce the recording nor acquire any copyright for the speeches.
MTN contends that Sebaggala's speeches were publicly broadcast as current news of public interest and political events. MTN notes that Sebaggala was an active participant both as the then Mayor and ministerial nominee.
The operator argues that the “sound recordings are the product of the entity (SMS Media) which fine-tuned the speech into transferable material.”