INTERVIEW: Ugandans Ignorant About Copyright – Expert

Ugandan singer, Iryn Namubiru recently issued stern warnings against infringement of copyrights pertaining her music.

Police in Kabale have in detention four people in connection of the death of a Rwandese national.

Elly Maate the Kigezi regional police spokesman identified the murdered as Innocent Mbonaruza, abortion a resident of Mumba cell, Kivuye sub county,  Namagali District in Rwanda

The Ugandans who are in police custody are Molly Tugumisirize 35 [the deceased ex wife], her current husband Amos Ntamuhanga 32, Kwitonda Bahati 17 years and  Ndayambaje Jamaria 18 year; all suspected to have had a hand in Mbonaruza’s murder.

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Police says the deceased had come to pick his thirteen year old son from his former wife Molly Tugumisirize, who divorced him some years back and currently is married to Amos Ntamuhanga in Butanda sub county,  Kabale district.

It’s alleged that on 30 April 2015, the deceased visited that home to pick his child but was promised that the boy would be sent to him later since they were not prepared, after which he stayed around that village being at the border.

Sadly, on last Friday Innocent was found dead his face dipped in muddy trench in front of Tukwe’s bar.

As the world commemorated the World Book and Copyright Day on April 23, price Chimpreports spoke to Denis Mubangizi, order an expert on intellectual property rights and an advocate of the High Court of Uganda who divulged some of the bottlenecks facing the Copyright justice and litigation in Uganda.

 CR: What is copyright?

DM: Copy right is just a right to benefit from ones innovative creation. Thus, doctor it can not be enforced by taking possession but rather by taking action in court so as to recover compensation for breach or secure injunction against further breach. Copy right is one mode of the various intellectual properties recognized in Uganda. Other intellectual properties are patents, confidential information and trademarks. It is intangible. But can be transferred, dealt in, mortgaged and sold.

Copy rights are governed by the Copy rights and the neighboring rights Act of 2006 and various international conventions.

The law of copy rights protects works and not ideas as held in the case of Donogue V Allied News Paper (1938) Ch. 106 at 109. and as provided under Section 6 of the Copy Right and Neighboring Rights Act.

Not all works are eligible for protection. Originality of the work must be ascertained for copyright to be enforced. Literary works like text books, novels, letters, dictionaries can be protected. Musical works, artistic works, films, sound recording, broadcasts etc can also be protected.

CR: What is the duration of copy right

DM: The law provides a period during which the right of the copy right owner exists. The period of duration starts to run when the work has been created or expressed. Under the Bern Convention, the copy right exists for the lifetime of the creator and not less than 50 years after his death. In the United States of America, the period has been extended to 70 years after the death of the owner.

CR: Who is entitled to copyright?

DM: The owner of the works is the first beneficiary to the copy right as provided under section 8 of the copy rights and neighboring rights Act. The copy right in the works of an employee, created in the course of his employment belong to the employer. The copy rights may belong to both employer and employee or to the employee alone, depending on the circumstances of each case.

Joint owners are both entitled to benefit from the copy right. Licensees as well as assignees can also benefit from copy right. The administrator of the estate of a deceased benefits from the copy right as well.

CR: How does one secure copyright for their song/ movie/ play and what are the costs and requirements involved?

DM: The Rome convention for the protection of performers, record makers and broadcasting organizations of 1961(also known as the neighboring rights convention) and the Bern convention do not require registration of copy right. Similarly, the Universal Copy right convention does not require registration. All these conventions however require the copy right holder to provide a copyright notice to be affixed to each copy of the work, as a pre condition to protection. The said notice is © or (P) for patents. 

CR: What amounts to a copyright infringement?

DM: Infringement occurs in many ways. It may be primary or secondary. However, the necessity of objective similarity and derivation is an important aspect to consider before determining whether or not infringement actually occurred. Infringement may include substantial taking of, authorizing infringement of copy right, issuing of copies to the public, un authorized performance in public, communication to the public, adaptation, amongst others.

CR: Which laws govern copyright in Uganda?

DM: Copy right is essentially governed by the copy rights and Neighboring Rights Act of 2006 and various international conventions. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a UN agency based in Geneva also helps in effective protection for intellectual property rights. Also, the Bern Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works of 1886 as revised in Paris in 1971 is another law governing copy right. Of course all other logical principles of law and procedure apply, including the case law.

CR: What does the law say about offenders who abuse copyright?

DM: Any offender convicted of any of the offences under the Act is liable to a fine or imprisonment. One of the sentences is a fine of shs 1 million or imprisonment of one year or both. Court may in addition order the offender to pay the copy right owner all monies so received from the infringement. Offences under the Act include; selling and buying of infringing material, inducing infringement, concealing an infringement, among others.

CR: Who is supposed to implement provisions of copyright laws in Uganda?

DM: Copy rights law is a private civil law. It is therefore evoked by any one aggrieved by the infringement. It can be evoked by the copy right owner, co- owner, assignee, licensee, administrator of the deceased copy right owner, among others. 

CR: What do you think are the challenges affecting copyright justice in Uganda industry?


  • Ignorance by the copy right owners and infringers.
  • Gross youth Unemployment induces infringement
  • A slow and adversarial court system discourages enforcement of the copy rights.
  • Expensive nature of litigation discourages enforcement



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