MTN Rwanda embroiled in copyright infringement row

THE NEW TIMES.

MTN Rwanda’s stand during the expo last year. MTN Rwanda and a creative agency, Creaxion, have come under fire for executing a visibility concept allegedly developed by a local creative without compensation. File
Telecommunication operator MTN Rwanda has come under fire for executing a visibility concept allegedly developed by a local creative firm without authorisation.

Izere is a popular local music producer who made head headlines recenly due to his social media campaign dubbed ‘Guma Murugo’ which urged Rwandans to stay at home to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The allegations first emerged on social media on Wednesday night.

In an interview with The New Times, Izere said that his first interaction with the two firms was a few weeks ago following the debut of his campaign.

The official from Creaxion reportedly expressed an intention by MTN Rwanda to build a concept and campaign to raise the telco’s visibility.

“She said that MTN wanted to work with me on my campaign to make it bigger with a few adjustments,” Izere said.

The campaign’s concept is built around calling on members of the public to record themselves singing along, rapping or dancing to beats produced by Izere.

Izere said that in their negotiation and interaction, he had stressed that while he was not interested in any remuneration himself, he sought that the telco rewards the members of the public who develop content and share content under the campaign.

Izere said that their interactions and negotiations ended with a promise that the MTN Rwanda Chief Marketing Officer would sign a contract within three days making way for implementation of the concept.

“We concluded that all that was left was the signing of a contract by the MTN Chief Marketing Officer, which would happen within three days and we could work together,” he said.

The creative agency official, he said, had also requested him to halt further implementation of his campaign till the signing of the contract.

Izere said that no contract came through. However, he said, a similar concept dubbed ‘iyaminiye’ was launched by MTN Rwanda.

He cited similarities between the campaign and his pitch, particularly the tag line ‘Stay at home Challenge’  which is a loose translation of ‘Guma Murugo.

The producer then reached out to Creaxion, referred to the occurrence as a coincidence, he said.

The producer says that he was, however, promised an opportunity on a soon to be launched project with the telco.

The agent is said to have sent a communique to Izere via Whatsapp which was said to have come from MTN promising to work with him on a project in the coming days.

However, the communique did not have a letter head or any other insignia to prove that it was authentic.

Izere told The New Times that he followed up with MTN Rwanda to express his concerns, reaching out to two officials in the firm who promised to look into it and get back to him, which did not happen.

It is then that they decided to express their grievances on social media which led the firm to respond, promising to investigate the development.

MTN Rwanda said in a statement that the claims were inaccurate.

“The concept of sharing content on social media platforms to win a prize based on most likes/interactions is definitely not unique to MTN and similar to other initiatives done across media platforms during this global pandemic to keep citizens engaged and connected even when at home ,” the operator’s statement reads in part.

Creaxion Ltd management declined to comment on the matter.

Izere said that if indeed it was a coincidence why did the creative agency engage him for days in contract negotiations?

Izere said that the recent event could be an indication of how often emerging creatives have their ideas and concepts ‘stolen’ by corporate organisations aware that there’s not much consequences to such actions.

Going forward, he tipped other creatives to consider recording their interactions with companies when pitching ideas and concepts to avoid a repeat of such incidents.

cmwai@newtimesrwanda.com

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,(www.rwandainspirer.com) is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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