By CHIKA CHIMEZIE
Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the nation’s sole government approved collective management organization for musical works and sound recordings, has requested the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to order communication giant, MTN to render accounts of revenue that has accrued to the company from the download of ringtones under agreements between MTN Nigeria Communications Limited and several Third Party Service Providers.
Among the agreements named in the application filed on behalf of COSON by renowned Intellectual property lawyer, Mr. Justin Ige of Creative Legal are those between MTN and Ultima Limited, MTN and Mcomm Solutions & Services Limited and MTN and Mobilexcetera Limited. The application has been brought under the historic 16 Billion Naira copyright infringement law suit filed against MTN by COSON.
In the application, COSON states that it is a clear beneficiary at law from the revenues accruing as a result of each of the agreements and that in the absence of any proof of any remittance to COSON, the accounts taken should be delivered by MTN within 7 days to both the court and COSON with the relevant books of account.
In another development, Mr. Ige on behalf of COSON has issued interrogatories to MTN requesting answers to several questions on the actions which MTN took or failed to take to ensure that it met its copyright obligations to COSON, its members and affiliates.
Speaking on a similar subject recently at a COSON Stakeholders Forum in Ibadan, COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji, said that there will be no hiding place for telecommunication companies operating in Nigeria who do not respect the intellectual property rights of creative people whose works the companies exploit for profit.
Said Chief Okoroji, ‘’If the ‘telcos’ think we will allow them have a copyright safe haven in Nigeria, they are wrong; if the telcos think we will get tired of pressuring them to do the right thing, they are very wrong; If the ‘telcos’ believe that we will ever stop asking them to give to Peter what belongs to Peter, they are absolutely wrong’’
According to the former president of PMAN, in the digital age, the telecommunication companies have become first line players in the distribution of music insisting that it will be suicidal for the music industry not to insist that these companies play within the rules and in accordance with the law.
The 16 Billion Naira suit brought by COSON against MTN is the biggest copyright law suit ever in the continent of Africa with 18 separate claims endorsed on the writ supported by a 43 paragraph Statement of Claim. 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.
Trial in the suit is scheduled to begin at the Federal High Court, Lagos on November 2, 2016.