Chris Steven, Abuja
Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the nation’s sole government approved collective management organization for musical works and sound recordings, has filed a N16 billion law suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos against telecommunications giant, MTN, for copyright infringement.
The suit which is thought to be the biggest copyright law suit ever in Africa has18 separate claims endorsed on the writ supported by a 43 paragraph Statement of Claim was filed by Lagos Intellectual property lawyer, Mr. Justin Ige of Creative Legal on behalf of COSON.
In the suit No. FHC/L/CS/619/2016, COSON has asked the court for six different declarations of copyright infringement perpetrated by MTN in the MTN Friendship’, ‘Connect’ or ‘Walk In’ Centres across Nigeria; the MTN ‘Road Shows’ in Nigeria; the various MTN Music Concerts, Festivals, Award Shows, Product Activations and Corporate events; the MTN Callertunez platform; the MTN Music Plus Platform and the MTN Mobile Radio.
Attaching numerous letters written to MTN, COSON in the Statement of Claim stated that it has taken several steps, engaged in massive media advertising, organized various programmes, devoted enormous time and resources in appealing to MTN to obtain the appropriate licences and pay requisite royalties for the musical works and sound recordings deployed by the company but lamented that the telecommunication giant did not act to meet its lawful obligations.
Supported by numerous exhibits, the Plaintiff in the Statement of Claim, said that while in recent years, COSON has collected and distributed several millions of naira received from various users of music to its members, affiliates and assignors as copyright royalty, not one MTN has failed to pay such royalty even as it touts itself as the biggest distributor of music in Nigeria and falsely holds itself out as a good friend of the Nigerian music industry.
COSON also complained that for every Caller Ring Back Tune (CRBT) sold by MTN, the Defendant keeps a whopping 60% – 70% of the income to itself, gives just about 30% – 40% of the revenue to be fought over by the Value Added Service (VAS) Provider, the Record Label, the Performer, etc while not extending any payment to the songwriters or composers, the copyright owners responsible for creating the musical works sold.
Also in the court documents, COSON expressed the concern that as a direct result of the refusal of MTN to pay royalties for the musical works deployed in its operations to promote and support its trade and business and directly boost its income, the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been denied several millions of naira being Value Added Tax (VAT) and other taxable income accruable to the government from the royalties.
COSON went further to ask the Federal High Court for an injunction restraining MTN, its agents, privies or servants from the continued unauthorized copying, communication to the public, streaming, selling, broadcasting, making available for downloading and permitting the unauthorized performance and infringement of the copyright in the musical works and sound recordings belonging to the members, affiliates and assignors of COSON.