Konshens Reportedly Awarded 667 Million Ugandan Shillings In Copyright Lawsuit Against Airtel Uganda

Jamaican Dancehall star Konshens has reportedly triumphed over Ugandan telecommunications giant Airtel Uganda, as he was on Tuesday awarded 667 million Ugandan shillings (the equivalent of US$180,000 or J$27.7 million) in a copyright lawsuit case involving several of his songs.

Airtel Uganda, which is a subsidiary of India’s Bharti Airtel Limited, was found liable for copyright infringement of Konshens’ songs in the lawsuit which was originally filed in 2015, according to MusicInAfrica.

On Tuesday, Ugandan High Court judge Patricia Mutesi ruled that Airtel and second defendant Onmobile Global Limited used the Jamaican’s songs as “caller tunes” (ring tones) without his permission, infringing on his copyrights.  Onmobile was also ordered to pay Konshens an additional 30 million Ugandan Shillings in exemplary damages.

Judge Mutesi had also declared that the telecoms giant and its business partners had unjustly enriched themselves when they sold Konshens’ songs, including Simple Song, Jamaican Dance, Gyal a Bubble, No Retreat and others, as caller tunes to Airtel’s subscribers at a rate of 600 Ugandan shillings per download without his permission and “did not even remit him a portion of the proceeds from his work.”

The companies were also found guilty of unfairly making use of the deejay’s other songs, namely So Mi Tan and Jah Love Me, Konshens Jazz Version and Stop Sign, under what was their 600 Ugandan shillings Hello Tunes programme.

According to Konshens’ lawsuit, the defendants had “refused to account for the proceeds obtained from the infringement or to pay him any royalties”.  The Sherlock Crescent native had requested that the court order the recovery of the profits generated from the sales of all his songs, along with general and exemplary damages, as well as interest and legal costs.

“He asserted his sole ownership of the intellectual property rights to some of the aforementioned tracks. Konshens contended that he had never transferred his copyrights or intellectual property rights to the defendants,” the court case states.

The Kingstonian had also sought a declaration from the court, stating that the defendants, by distributing his music without sharing the resulting profits with him, constituted both illegal behaviour and a violation of his copyright.

“It is declared that by using and distributing the plaintiff’s suit songs as caller tunes without his consent the first and second defendants are jointly and severally liable for infringement of the Plaintiff’s copyright in the said songs,” the Judge wrote in her summation.

“It is declared that the first and second defendants distribution of the Plaintiff’s songs without remitting the proceeds to the Plaintiff amounted to unjust enrichment,” she noted additionally.

Over on Twitter, Ugandans mocked the telecommunications company which they also claimed, is renowned for providing subpar service, but argued that the sum they were compelled to pay over to Konshens, was merely “chicken feed”.

“The same Airtel posted 594 Billion shillings in PROFIT as of 31 Dec ,2022. A 700 M fine is a drop in the ocean,” Marvin said, while Lincoln added: “Airtel can make that in just 2hrs”.

Airtel Uganda Limited is described as a mobile communications and information technology services provider which also provides mobile funds transfer and banking services known as Airtel Payments Bank.

Airtel Uganda’s headquarters are located in Airtel Towers, along Clement Hill Road, in the Central Division of the country’s capital, Kampala.

Its parent company Bharti Airtel Limited is described as a “leading telecommunication company” which is headquartered in New Delhi, India and which is “the most trusted provider of ICT services with a global network across the USA, Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia-Pacific, India, and SAARC regions.

Airtel Telecommunications describes itself as ranking amongst the top three mobile service providers in the world.   

The company also says it has a “diverse product portfolio and strategically located submarine cables and satellite network running across 365,000+ RKMs in 50 countries and five continents, and is “pushing the boundaries in digital service delivery with a key focus on enhanced end-user experience, round-the-clock infrastructure availability, and superior service quality”.

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