12 November 2012

Rwanda: Kayirebwa, Media in Legal Battle Over Rights

Renowned cultural songster, Cécile Kayirebwa, has filed a lawsuit at the Commercial High Court against local radio stations, including Rwanda Office of Information (ORINFOR) for illegally airing her music which is interpreted as piracy.

Kayirebwa's lawyer appeared in court last week accusing ORINFOR, Voice of Africa, Contact FM, Flash FM, City Radio and Isango Star of pirating her music and seeks compensation of close to Rwf300 million.

Unlike other radio stations, the state broadcaster admitted to have aired the artist's songs and claimed to have witnesses attesting that Kayirebwa requested the broadcaster to play her songs.

However the witnesses were absent in court.

During the hearing, ORINFOR's lawyer Epimaque Rubago told the court that the witnesses did not show up in court because they were not summoned by the judge.

"It would have been violation of laws if ORINFOR owned Kayirebwa's songs. ORINFOR played the songs in the interest of the general public."

Voice of Africa also claimed that Kayirebwa asked the management of the radio station to air her music.

Kayirebwa's lawyer Safari Kizito reportedly said his client has suffered financial loss because the accused media houses had been using the music without her permission. She further claims there have been no sales of her music because it was being broadcast freely.

He argued that there is not written proof that Kayirebwa authorised ORINFOR to play her music.

Reports from ORINFOR indicate that Kayirebwa is seeking Rwf 90 million as compensation from the state broadcaster alone and Rwf30 from each of other media outlets accused-this brings the total claim to approximately Rwf270 million.

The hearing was adjourned to December 14 when all witnesses can testify before court.

The artiste's talent dates way back to the 1950s when she sang with a group dubbed Circle of Rwandan Song and Dance - their work was broadcast on Radio Rwanda. She has been living in Belgium with her family since 1973.

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