COSON challenges N5.9bn awarded MCSN for Multichoice copyright infringement

COSON executives at the press briefing

Two weeks after a Federal High Court in Lagos awarded N5.9 billion “special damages” against Multichoice Nigeria and in favour of the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd./GTE, the Copyright Society of Nigeria has kicked against the judgment.

The collective management organisation on Tuesday described the judgment as “bizarre and an attempt to turn the Nigeria music industry into a gold mine, where those who have made no investments nor contributions to the industry can cart away illicit billions of Naira while the true creators and investors in the industry languish in penury.”

Multichoice had dragged MCSN to court in 2011 seeking a perpetual injunction restraining the group from asking or demanding it to obtain copyright license for the broadcast and communication to the public of musical works on the radio and television channels operated and distributed by Multichoice.

According to the company, MCSN was not licensed or approved by the Nigerian Copyright Commission as a collecting society.

The suit had come after MCSN wrote to Multichoice in 2011 demanding N4.1 billion as cumulative copyright and royalties for its body of works used by the latter during the airing of its programmes.

In its counter-claim filed before the judge, MCSN accused Multichoice of copyright infringement on 18 songs in its repertoire, including ‘Konko Below’ and ‘Never Far Away’ by Nigerian masked musician, Bisade Ologunde (popularly known as Lagbaja).

The other songs, which the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd./GTE accused Multichoice of using without lawful permission included UEFA Cup thematic music and UEFA Championship League thematic music.

Speaking on behalf of the members of the society at a media briefing on Wednesday at COSON House in Ikeja, Tony Okoroji, Chairman of COSON, recalled that at the time the purported infringement took place, MCSN was not an approved collecting society.

Present at the briefing were Maureen Ejezie, Kenny St Best, Sir Shina Peters, John Udegbunam, Richard Cole, reggae legend, Ras Kimono, COSON General Manager, and Chinedu Chukwuji among other members of the society.

“MCSN was facing seven pending criminal cases at the Federal High Court and which the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami ordered the Nigerian Copyright Commission to approve in 2017, despite the protest of the NCC,” Mr. Okoroji stated.

According to him, works alleged to have been infringed upon are in the repertoire controlled by COSON for which Multichoice Nigeria has obtained a legitimate license.

Mr. Okoroji added that COSON had received reactions from some of its international affiliates wondering what was going on in Nigeria as some of the works for which MCSN was said to have received the award belong to COSON affiliates who at no time assigned the works to MCSN.

Gospel artist, Kenny St Best, also noted, “If a single Nigerian company providing employment to many Nigerian citizens can be said to liable up to the whopping sum of N6 billion for copyright infringement in the broadcast of 18 songs, then it would require the entire national budget of Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt to pay for the entire Multichoice content.

Speaking further, COSON called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call Mr. Abubakar Malami to order.

Calling for the resignation of the Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, COSON also urged the Federal Executive Council to direct the immediate return of the Nigerian Copyright Commission to the supervision of the Minister charged with responsibility for culture as expressly provided in Section 51 of the Nigerian Copyright Act.

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