Jamaican singer Garfield Spence, known as Konshens, has bagged Shillings 750 million following a successful court case against Airtel Uganda Ltd and Onmobile Global Limited for illegally using his songs as caller tunes. Konshens ran to the Commercial Division of the High Court in Kampala accusing the two companies of using his songs without his consent.
He provided evidence to the court presided over by Lady Justice Patricia Mutesi to demonstrate that Airtel and Onmobile Global Ltd had infringed upon his copyright by using his songs, such as “Simple Song,” “Gyal Ah Bubble,” “So Mi Tan,” “Stop Sign,” “Jamaican Dance,” “Konshens Jazz Version,” “No Retreat,” and “Jah Love Me,” without his approval.
The artist asserted that he retained intellectual property rights to these songs and had not authorized either Airtel Uganda Ltd or Onmobile Global Ltd to use them. Onmobile Global allegedly provided these songs to Airtel Uganda subscribers as caller tunes for Shillings 600 per download.
Despite attempts to resolve the matter outside of court, where Konshens sought accountability for proceeds obtained from his copyrighted material and royalties, the two companies refused to comply. This left him without any option but to pursue legal action against them. In his lawsuit, Konshens targeted Airtel Uganda Ltd, Onmobile Global Ltd, Mtech Ltd, and Solunet Business Solution Ltd. However, the judge cleared Mtech and Solunet Business Solution from the copyright infringement charges due to insufficient evidence.
Airtel Uganda defended its position by stating that it entered into a Caller Ring Back Tune (CRBT) service agreement with Onmobile Global Ltd for the distribution of artistic works as caller tunes. Airtel maintained that it only provided the network and customers, while Onmobile Global was responsible for obtaining and distributing the caller tunes.
Onmobile Global, on the other hand, argued that it had a content provider agreement with Mtech Ltd and Solunet Business Solution Ltd to digitally distribute artistic works to its clients. According to Onmobile Global, these companies assured them of the necessary authorization and permission to use and distribute the content.
In her ruling, Justice Mutesi declared that Airtel and Onmobile Global’s use and distribution of Konshens’ songs without his consent amounted to copyright infringement and unjustified enrichment.
“In my opinion, the 1st and 2nd defendants acted arbitrarily and with impunity in dealing with artistic works that were not even referred to in the CRBT Agreement or the Content Provision Agreements. Furthermore, the 2nd Defendant acted maliciously when it wrongly attributed its unlawful dealings in the suit works to the 3rd defendant and third party. These impugned actions were calculated to procure financial benefits for the defendants at the expense of the plaintiff. It is therefore necessary to award exemplary damages so as to deter the 1st and 2nd defendants from dealing unlawfully with intellectual property rights in the future, “ordered Mutesi.
She ordered both companies to pay Konshens US$ 180,000 in damages at 15 percent interest per annum from the filing date until full payment. Additionally, the judge ordered Airtel Uganda to pay Shillings 20 million and Onmobile Global to pay Shillings 30 million to Konshens as exemplary damages, with interest of 10 percent per annum from the date of judgment until full payment. As part of her decision, Justice Mutesi also directed Airtel Uganda and Onmobile Global to cover the costs of the lawsuit for Konshens, alongside Mtech Limited.