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Your Caller Tune? My Copyright.....Tanzanian Court Awards Landmark Damages for Copyright Infringemen

East African copyright law has recently risen to the fore of IP rights enforcement with several recent successful enforcement decisions being published. After a lengthy four-year battle, Tanzanian musicians / Bongo flava / rappers, Ambwene Yessaya “AY” and Hamisi Mwinjuma “MwanaFA”, recently reaped the reward of 1.2 million dollars in special damages, raising the precedents bar on damages in relation to copyright infringement in Tanzania. The award also included a separate 11 thousand dollars in general damages.

The matter was based on Mobile telecommunication company Millicom International Cellular Tanzania (Tigo), who was accused of exploiting the works of the two musicians through the unauthorised use of their music as caller tunes. Tigo was essentially selling artists AY and Mwana FA’s music to Tigo customers to use as caller tunes music without the Artists authorisation. (A caller tune, is where a tone that is in the form of music that is heard by a person making the call as they wait for the other person on the other side to answer the phone). The musicians initially in their application had asked for damages totalling 1.9 million dollars, claiming that every time their song is “caller-tuned” without their permission Tigo continues to generate income through its customers subscription to the caller-tune service.

Tigo has however instituted proceedings to appeal the judgment arguing that the work was not registered with the Copyright Society of Tanzania (COSOTA) and that there were crucial jurisdictional errors at play, in terms of the judgment handed down.

Typically, a copyright matter of this nature would not receive much publicity given that Tanzanian artists arguably, don’t receive as much recognition compared to their first world counterparts.

This judgment signals a strong warning to big corporations who should be more mindful of intellectual property rights in Africa, especially where there is commercial exploitation of such works. It also demonstrates the fact that a stronger enforcement of copyright against infringers, is on the rise in Tanzania.

For more information on IP enforcement in Tanzania, kindly contact Rouse Africa

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