ARUA CITY. Musician Mubarak Mandela alias Freeboy Adams has dragged telecom giants Mobile telecommunications network (MTN) and Airtel to court over the illegal use of the hit song Kwata Esimu.

The award-winning song, collaboration with Swangz Avenue’s Winnie Nwangi was released at the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown and widely celebrated by many as the song of the pandemic.

Under the management company Viva entertainment Limited through their lawyers Katente and Ssempebwa advocates, the plaintiff is demanding sh175 million from each of the companies for using the song as their ringtones and other promotional activities without due recognition and compensation of the company.

“They picked our song and started using it without permission and I made an effort to contact them because our song was copyrighted, many times I got a very cold response from both companies, So we made a decision as a company to take them to court because this is a copyrighted song which had a lot of investment behind it”, said Mr Gilbert Adibo, a director at Viva Entertainment.

Adibo speaking during a press conference in Arua city on Friday emphasized that the court case had no ill-intentions other than demanding what is due to the upcoming talents in under-privileged societies like West Nile.

“We realized that the big telecom players like Airtel and MTN picked our song and started to use it for promoting their business, so to a large extent, we felt we are an industry that is upcountry and thought these companies could come to support and promote talents like the ones we have identified”, Adibo added.

He confirmed that the suits to Airtel and MTN were served on the 4th and 15th March 2021 respectively, nearly a year after the companies started using the song largely due to the in operationalization of the courts during COVID-19 lockdown and also to allow for a chance in the out-of-court settlements.

Adibo said their move to sue the companies was to send a clear message on behalf of many young talents who are often cheated and yet have no voice in demanding what is due to them and needed to come clean.

Speaking during the same conference, Freeboy Adams (Mubarak Mandela) said having a break through during the COVID-19 was heart reeking because you can’t have shows and you can’t move but he was lucky to have VIVA entertainment to give him advice and help him go through it all.

“It’s so heartbreaking to see big companies like MTN and Airtel that are ready out there and are brands taking up something which is not theires that an artist who is really trying because it is a very big hussle back here in Arua for someone to blow out, it takes a lot and if they take what is yours and do not pay or say anything about it and go silent, its heart breaking because this is never going to happen to me alone, even the artists who are going to come after me will face the same issue”, he howled.

He continued “We are talking about copyrights here; they used our song as Viva entertainment in which we had put a lot of investment”.

But in a written response on behalf of MTN Uganda by Shonubi, Musoke and Co. Advocates, the telecom service provider denies the charges.

“In terms of the agreement DMARK MOBILE was tasked to obtain and or secure all necessary authorization for the use of patent and or Copyrights for any service or product provided and to ensure that the service provided do not infringe of the legal interests/ rights of the owner/ patentee of the intellectual property”, the defendant states in part.

The defendant further stated that it was a term of the agreement that the defendant would not be liable for breach of intellectual property rights by third parties and the service provider, DMARK MOBILE, agreed to wholly indemnify the defendant against any claim.

About VIVA entertainment

Adibo said VIVA entertainment was created for the simple reason that there is so much talent in the West Nile region and yet most of it has not been tapped and promoted.

“Why they are not promoted is because historically our region has not been in the good light of this country and many people look at West Nile as a dark region so we created VIVA entertainment for the sole purpose of identifying talents especially in music, art and sports”, he said.

He continued “we realize that if we created a platform like this, it will be easier for many of the talents that have been languishing to promote and penetrate the main media industry in the country then we can even take such talent further to the continent and the world to promote issues related to culture, tourism and many more”.