The Commercial Court has ruled that MTN Uganda and the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) must pay sh570.6m to Proline Soccer Academy due to the violation of its sports image rights.
High Court judge Stephen Mubiru stated that FUFA wrongly granted MTN Uganda Limited the right to use images licensed to Proline Soccer Academy Limited for five years.
“The plaintiff has proved that the defendants violated the image rights licensed to it by the 11 participating players,” ruled Mubiru.
The court ordered that the sh570.6m would accrue an interest rate of 6% per annum from the date of filing the suit (September 6, 2011), until full payment.
During the sponsorship period between 2007 and 2013, FUFA mistakenly allowed MTN to use images licensed to Proline, even though the agreement between FUFA and Proline had expired in September 2008.
Mubiru noted that MTN, for five years, used the images exclusively licensed to Proline, violating the image rights.
“The defendants were supposed to pay the plaintiff at the negotiated rate under the expired contract if an extension had been granted for the duration,” observed Mubiru.
In the ruling dated February 2, 2024, Mubiru emphasized that the agreement did not reserve any rights for the nine signatory licensors to market their images individually or as a team.
He clarified that a licensee with sufficient proprietary interest has standing, regardless of explicit rights to sue in the licensing agreement.
The conflict lies between the copyright of a photograph taken of the 11 players, used without their consent but with FUFA’s permission for MTN’s commercial purposes, and the image rights of the players.
In cases of doubt regarding consent for use, image rights prevail over copyright law, according to the judge.
Mubiru concluded that Proline owns the players’ image rights and can sue for enforcement.