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Journalists sue ex-MP over book ownership

Former Kigulu North MP Edward Kafufu Baliddawa has been sued for copyright infringement by two Ugandan journalists.

In their suit filed on January 24 in the Commercial court, Simon Musasizi and Edward Echwalu claim that Baliddawa didn’t write the book, The Best of Busoga, as he claims, but only provided logistical support.

On December 7, 2016, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga launched the book, which promotes Busoga’s historical tradition, its challenges and untapped tourism sector.

In the suit, Musasizi says he is the author and copyright owner of the original book titled, Best of Busoga. He said Echwalu, a photographer, contributed the photographs in the book.

According to the suit, sometime in 2012,during the premier Busoga Tourism Expo attended by several journalists, Musasizi noted a lack of information on several potential tourism sites in the region.

Subsequently, according to the suit, in early 2013, Musasizi came up with the idea of writing a travel book on Busoga and he contacted Moses Agaba, the proprietor of Fathil International Projects Ltd (FIPRO), with a proposal for the latter to publish the book.

Edward Baliddawa

“A memorandum of Understanding was executed between the first plaintiff’s [Musasizi] company, Munk Communications Ltd, and FIPRO in which it was agreed that FIPRO would look for advertisers to take up space in the book while the first plaintiff would carry out research, writing and compilation of the book,” the suit reads.

He further says that Agaba urged him to obtain a cover letter from Speaker of Parliament Kadaga since she is the patron of Busoga Tourism Initiative(BTI).

Then, Musasizi says, he shared the idea with Baliddawa, chairperson of BTI, who is the second defendant in this suit. Baliddawa reportedly welcomed the idea.

“The first plaintiff [Musasizi] worked around the clock conducting strenuous research, collecting data, verifying the information obtained, and writing the content to ensure that the entire book was ready by the end of 2013 while the second plaintiff captured photographs,” the plaint reads.

“The first plaintiff also interviewed and recorded stories of different people in Busoga, including the late chief David Kauhne, chief Yasin Waguma Ntende and his wife, as well as the former Bulamogi Isabalangira, Yonasani Kahalwa Zirabamuzale, among others, on the subject matter of the book.”

The journalists say that Baliddawa and BTI’s only contribution to the text and content of the book was limited to sourcing for old pictures of Busoga, paying the graphic designer and sourcing for funding for printing and publishing the book.

“The first plaintiff solely compiled and authored the text of the book while matching the right pictures supplied by the second plaintiff [Echwalu] and old pictures of Busoga obtained by the first defendant,” the suit states.

“Unfortunately, FIPRO experienced economic hardships and as such it was unable to conclude with the book as earlier on agreed. Both the first plaintiff [Musasizi] and the first defendant [Baliddawa] agreed to look for another source of financing for the printing and publication of the book,” reads the suit.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and minister Godfrey Kiwanda launching the Best of Busoga

But the journalists say they were dismayed to learn through an article in Daily Monitor dated December 5, 2016, referring to Baliddawa as the author of the book titled “Best of Busoga”, and that the book had already been published.

“On perusing the contents of the book, the plaintiffs were shocked to learn that the first defendant [Baliddawa] had unilaterally changed  parts of  the book and assumed authorship of the book in total disregard of the work, effort, creativity and originality of the plaintiffs [Musasizi and Echwalu] while referring to the first plaintiff [Musasizi] as a researcher,” the suit says.

The book, according to the journalists, is currently being sold commercially on stalls, supermarkets, bookshops and other outlets, and also being personally hawked by Baliddawa at a quoted price of Shs 100, 000. Interviewed for a response on Thursday, Baliddawa said Musasizi was his “employee” who he paid to do research he used to write the book.

“When you’re a driver, it doesn’t mean that you own the car,” Baliddawa said.

“I gave Musasizi money to do the research and he used that money to employ other people to do the photography. So, I insist that I wrote that book. Let the courts decide,” Baliddawa said.

The journalists want Baliddawa to not only pay general damages, and exemplary damages for infringement, but to also account or surrender all monies earned by him as a result of the said infringement.