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Court punishes Reserve Bank of Malawi over K5,000 banknote

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COULD NOT BE REACHED—Tseka

The Commercial Division of the High Court has ordered the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) to pay architect Davie Chidyaonga damages for using a copyrighted image of the Mzuzu Branch of RBM without the architect’s permission.

The judgement comes after the central bank used the image of the building on the K5,000 banknote released on February 24 this year.

In a default judgement in Commercial Case number 66 of 2017, entered on June 15, the court has declared that the copyrighted image of the building of Mzuzu Branch of RBM is the property of Davie Chidyaonga

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“…it is this day adjudged as follows: … A declaration that RBM is wrong to use the building’s image without consent and permission of Davie Chidyaonga

“A declaration that Davie Chidyaonga is entitled to damages payable in the circumstances,” the default judgement reads.

It notes that damages to be paid in the case are to be assessed, adding that RBM must pay the costs of the case.

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RBM legal counsel Agness Sentala referred us to the bank’s spokesperson Ralph Tseka, who was not immediately available for a comment.

In April last year, the High Court sitting in Blantyre stopped Chidyaonga, trading as DDC Designs, from selling the Mzuzu building, which belongs to RBM.

Although issues to do with payment for his services were resolved in a judgement by Judge Annabel Mtalimanja on March 2 2017, Chidyaonga had claimed that he has the exclusive copyright to the building and nobody, including the bank’s officials, can occupy it without his licence or permission.

Chidyaonga is said to have exclusive rights to the RBM Mzuzu Branch building from the USA Copyright Registration Index after a ruling on April 29 2020.

Chidyaonga believes that, since he got the rights after Mtalimanja’s ruling, the ruling does not stop him from exercising his property rights, including licencing and/or selling it.

But, in his ruling, High Court Judge Ken Manda dismissed Chidyaonga’s arguments, saying occupying a building does not constitute an infringement of the copyright of the designer who made its designs.

“For an infringement to take place, the infringed work should be copyrighted, a right should be infringed, and there was no defence. Copyright infringement is an unauthorised violation of the exclusive rights of the author and owner of intellectual property.

“In the present context, there is no doubt that the claimant has not duplicated the designs of the Mzuzu building. According to the defendant, he believes he can sell the Mzuzu building because the claimant has infringed on his copyright by occupying the building without his licence or permission,” the ruling reads.

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