By Gad Masereka
Kampala: The Court of Appeal On July 15 rejected a decision to award 50 million Shillings to the late Professor George Wilberforce Kakoma as loyalties for composing the Uganda National Anthem.
A panel of three Justices Hellen Obura, Elizabeth Musoke and Fredrick Egonda-Ntende quashed the compensation award on grounds that it had no legal basis. The Judges also ruled that Kakoma no vested the copyright of the National Anthem with the Government and that the copyright enjoyed legal protection for 50 years which expired in 2012.
The judges also added that by this expiration, the composition no longer enjoys copyright protection and can now be freely used in the public domain. The verdict was presented by Court of Appeal Registrar Agnes Nkonge.
The 50 million award had been given to the Late Kakoma in 2010 by High Court Judge Yorokamu Bamwiine, as his final settlement for the anthem; OhUganda, the Land of Beauty, which was selected as a winning composition by a committee which was seeking for a short, original, solemn and praising” anthem, as the nation obtained independence from Great Britain in 1962.
It also praises Uganda’s Beauty, ability to feed her own from the fertile Soils and the abundant Sun, concluding with “The Pearl of Africa’s Crown”, a line first attributed by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who visited the then British territory in the early 20th century.
In 2008, Prof . Kakoma dragged government to court seeking to be paid compensation, royalties and damages for violation of his copyright. He had also sought an injunction against Government from singing his song on state functions before paying him.
However in 2010 High court Judge Yorokamu Bamwine disallowed most of Prof. Kakoma’s prayers and instead awarded him Shs50m as loyalties for his composition, saying the Shs2000 paid to him in 1962 was too little and unbefitting.
The decision was based on a suit filed by Prof Kakoma who was seeking damages for the alleged violation of his copyright and sought a compensation of one billion Shillings. In his suit, professor Kakoma claimed that the state owed him royalties each time the National anthem is recited and also sought an injunction to restrain the state from using his song.
But Kakoma rejected the award saying that it was too little to cover the damages incurred for violation of his copyright for more than 40 years. He then went to the court of appeal seeking a compensation of about 800 million Shillings instead. He died in 2012 before the case was disposed of.
His widow Mary Teresa Kakoma continued pushing the case. The State through the then Director for Civil Litigation Christine Kahwa and Charity Nabasa the State Prosecutor opposed the appeal arguing that Kakoma had been paid for his work. The state lawyers, however, supported the 50 million award since it had been given due to the Judge’s discretion.