Copyright Infringememt: Artist slams N300m suit against MTN, others

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An Abuja-based music artiste, Liberty Williams has sued MTN Nigeria Communication Ltd. and three others demanding N300 million damages over alleged copyright infringement.

In the suit filed before a Federal High Court, Abuja,, Williams with stage name, ” “Pupayannis” joined MTN Chief Executive Officer, Ferdi Moolman, No Where to Run Entertainment Ltd. and its Chairman Emmanuel Abanah as co-defendants.

The plaintiff alleged that MTN in collaboration with No Where to Run Entertainment Company offered his song “Love is Everything” to its millions of subscribers as ring tone and caller tune without his consent.

He alleged that for more  than three years,  the defendants reproduced, stored and electronically sold the song to the subscribers upon the payment of N50 each for one month with the option of monthly renewals of same amount per month.

The suit filed by Rockson Igelige Chambers, the plaintiff asked the court to declare that the sale or offer for fee of the song he composed without his consent constitute infringement on his copyright.

In a statement of claim, the plaintiff said he wrote, composed and financed the production of the song in July 2013, three months before he entered into an agreement with No Where to Run Entertainment Ltd.

He contended he did not at any time surrendered the master tape and the right of the song to the entertainment company and its Chief Executive.

The plaintiff said the agreemwnt he signed with the entertainment company did not include the right to use or licence and assign the copyright of his past works.

He urged the court to grant an order of injunction restraining MTN from further selling his song to their customers.

The plaintiff also urged the court to award against the defendants the sum of N200 million as general damages and N100 million aggravated and punitive damages in his favour.

In a statement of defence, Abanah and the recording company urged the court to dismiss the suit because the plaintiff has no copyright over the song.

They contended that the plaintiff was working on the song when they signed recording artist agreement with him to exploit and market his brand and works.

They said the song that became the subject matter of the case was different from the rough version that the plaintiff was working on.

The defendant alleged that the plaintiff filed the suit to evade refunding them the expenses incurred in packaging him.

For his part, MTN said the deployment of the song as caller tune and ring tone was pursuant to the recording artist agreement the plaintiff had with Abanah and his recording company.

The communication company contended that the the plaintiff’s claim of copyright infringement is misconceived and the suit is “a mere dispute between the plaintiff and the recording label.

Meanwhile, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu has awarded N50,000 fine against MTN for failure to move its defence in the court on Tuesday.

At the resumed hearing of the case, Counsel to the plaintiff, Dr Ogaga Ifowodo urged the court to grant an order for the fine when the defendants failed to call their witnesses.

Justice Ojukwu adjourned the case until Sept. 24, for definite hearing of MTN defence and directed that the other defendants should be put on notice of the new hearing date. (NAN)

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