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The Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) has denied an application by social media personality Frank Gashumba to own and register a copyright in an artistic silhouette of President Yoweri Museveni involving the popular campaign slogan: “ Omalako Jajja Tova Ku Main Sigala Ku Ballot: Jajja We command You to Stand Again in 2026 and Beyond: Bazzukulu Ba Museveni.”
Mr. Frank Gashumba had claimed in his application to be the originator or author of the artwork showing President Museveni’s Silhouette walking along a ballot box, with a white cloth strapped across his shoulders and bearing the aforementioned campaign slogan.
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Gashumba claimed he had provided the said artwork to the Office of the National Chairman (ONC) of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) under a branding contract that involved the said artwork and catch-phrase being printed on T-shirts for President Museveni’s 2026 reelection campaign.
Assistant Registrar of Copyright at the URSB, Mr. Birungi Denis in a comprehensive decision held that Mr. Gashumba had not proven he was the originator of the campaign slogan and the President’s image in the artwork and that the mere addition of italics and red color to the image along the words did not entitle him to copyright in the overall artwork.
Mr. Frank Gashumba’s copyright application fell by the wayside after opposition from ONC officials including Ms. Hadijah Namyalo, the Head of the office who argued that the said campaign slogan was actually a creature of “her team” at the office and that if Gashumba ideated the artwork then it was during his employment under the branding contract which entitled the ONC as the employer to the copyright in the artwork.
This argument was however rejected by the Assistant Registrar who ruled that Ms. Namyalo did not prove Gashumba to have been under the employment of the ONC either as a direct employee or an independent contractor for the sake of developing the silhouette as she did not avail any written contracts.
“ The receipts adduced indicated that [Mr. Frank Gashumba] was paid to print T-shirts. Printing T-shirts is not the same as developing artwork to be incorporated on those T-shirts.”Mr. Birungi Denis said.
Section 4 of the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act (“Copyright Act”) provides that the “author” of work capable of being copyrighted “shall have a right of protection of the work where [that] work is original and is reduced to material form in whatever method irrespective of the quality of the work or the purpose for which it was created.”
Based on this provision of the law, Assistant Registrar Birungi Denis ruled that Frank Gashumba was not the author/owner of the said campaign slogan as the slogan had been in circulation long before the date he claimed to have created it (5th November 2022) and neither was he the author/owner of President Yoweri Museveni’s image as he did not photograph or hire someone to photograph the President meaning the said artwork did not “originate” from him as required by the law.
“[Frank Gashumba] is not the author and cannot apply for registration of the disputed works.” Assistant Registrar Birungi Denis concluded.
Whereas the law protects derivative works independently as copyrightable works, it is a requirement that such derivative works (works based on another person’s copyrightable work) are created with the knowledge of the copyright owner in the works on which they are based or that they fall among the permitted cases of free use.
If indeed Gashumba had been the author of the artwork, then the artwork would pass for a derivative work but he did not plead that before the Registrar and in any event did not indicate he had the requisite permissions under the Copyright Act.
Benjamin Ahikiiriza is a Legal Writer And Digital Communications & Marketing Specialist majoring in Lawyers, Law Firms And the larger Legal Sector.
Benjamin currently Works as the Director of Content and Business Development At LegalReports.