Multichoice to pay Nigeria billions for copyright infringement

by ONGEA! Editor
Multichoice to pay Nigeria billions for copyright infringement

Source: Music In Africa

The media company Multichoice has been ordered by a Nigerian court to pay about 5.5 billion naira ($15m) in damages to the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN).

The judgement is the latest development in a case that started in 2011 by Multichoice upon receiving a letter from the MCSN demanding royalties. The South African company sought an injunction preventing MCSN from demanding a copyright licence for the broadcasting of music from the stations administered by Multichoice.

The MCSN had no standing upon which to make demands as it was itself not licensed as a copyright organisation, Multichoice said. The copyright body then filed a counterclaim stating that Multichoice had infringed on 18 of its songs, including the UEFA Championship League theme music and songs recorded by Nigerian act Lagbaja, British act Sade and late reggae artist Bob Marley.

“The defendant to the counterclaim did each of these acts in the course of and to promote their businesses and to make profit without the authority or licence of the counterclaimant and the counterclaimant has suffered loss and damage,” MCSN wrote.

“The defendant to the counterclaim bluntly refused or neglected to voluntarily apply for and obtain the permission of the counterclaimant before deploying the musical works of the counterclaimant’s repertoire into the defendant’s broadcasting activities. The defendant has continued to infringe upon the works and has threatened to do so continually unless restrained by this honourable court.”

Although there are complaints regarding the long duration of many court cases in Nigeria, the dispute between MCSN and Multichoice may have been revived partly because the copyright body was approved as a collecting body last year by Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation.

That decision was reached after almost 30 years of the MCSN requesting approval and being resisted by the Copyright Society of Nigeria, which insisted on being the sole collecting body. The decision against Multichoice has taken less than half that time and is the first high-profile win for the MCSN since its approval.

In his ruling against Multichoice, Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos said: “The court having delivered judgment this 19th day of January, 2018, striking out the plaintiff’s claims, it is hereby ordered as follows: that judgment is entered in favour of the defendant/counterclaimant in the following terms: N5 490 652 125 [$15 318 919] only as damages.”

The amount includes 200 million naira and 309 million naira awarded to MCSN as general and aggravated damages. It also includes 197 million naira as VAT payable to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

This article was originally published on Music In Africa.