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MCSN gets relief as court strikes down COSON as corporate entity

By Bertram Nwannekanma
12 April 2020   |   3:04 am
The lingering legal tussle between the Musical Copyright Society Nigeria Limited by Guarantee (MCSN) and Copyright Society of Nigeria Limited by Guarantee (COSON)

The lingering legal tussle between the Musical Copyright Society Nigeria Limited by Guarantee (MCSN) and Copyright Society of Nigeria Limited by Guarantee (COSON) over the collection of royalties in Nigeria has taken a new twist following a judgment of a Federal High Court, Lagos, recently.

Before now, the two bodies were at loggerheads over who, among them, had the legal right on Collective Management Organisation (CMO) for musical works and sound in Nigeria following the decision by Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) to pick COSON in 2010 as the sole collector.

But in the judgment delivered by Justice Saliu Saidu on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/274/201, the court struck down COSON as a company registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

The suit filed by MCSN, in 2010, had COSON, CAC and Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as defendants.

Justice Saidu, in his verdict, restrained COSON, the 1st defendant, its members, servants, privies, agents, or howsoever, from using or continuing to use Copyright Society of Nigeria (Lte/Gte).

The court also held that it is a misnomer to give the name, which the plaintiff had applied to register, or similar, to what the plaintiff seeks to register to the 1st defendant (COSON) on November 23, 2009, when the time allowed for the plaintiff to complete its registration had not expired.

It was the position of the court that the 1st Defendant name was illegally approved and hence the 1st Defendant cannot lay claim to the name Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd/Gte.

According to the court, the 2nd defendant, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), acted improperly and illegally in approving an application by the Performing and Mechanical Rights Society (PMRS) to process the change of its name from PMRS to COSON at a time when the same CAC had reserved the very same Copyright Society of Nigeria Lte/Gte (COSON) for use by some members of the plaintiff (MCSN) for themselves and on behalf of the plaintiff.

It was also the judgment of the court that the Attorney General of the Federation and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) acted improperly and illegally to granting approval to the PMRS to process the change of its name to COSON having regard to the pendency of the plaintiff’s petitions to them dated November 13, 2009.

According to the court, an organisation whose genre of copyright is restricted to musical rights could not legally be permitted to use the name “Copyright Society of Nigeria” is a term encompassing rights arising from literature, arts, music, drama, cinematography, broadcasts, architecture, computer programmes, and so on.

The court also held: “That the 2nd and 3rd defendants (CAC and the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation), their servants, privies, agents and howsoever are restrained from approving or continuing to approve or otherwise recognising the 1st defendant as Copyright Society of Nigeria (Ltd/Gte).

“That the 2nd and 3rd defendants (CAC and HAGF) are directed to take necessary steps to cancel, change, alter or rescind any steps it may have taken towards effecting the change and or registration of the 1st defendant’s name as Copyright Society of Nigeria (Ltd/Gte).”

Reacting to the verdict, MCSN boss, Mayo Ayilaran, in a statement, said the motive behind the launch of COSON was to supplant MCSN and take over the business, which MCSN has been nurturing and developing painstakingly for many years. This they did for more than 10 years but the moment of truth has finally come.

According to him, MCSN is working with relevant authorities and will leave no stone unturned to make this judgment and orders of the court effectual, “as we would not be unmindful of any antics that may be employed by the promoters of the extinct company (COSON) to influence wrongfully creators of music and the general public.

“Music creators (authors, composers, publishers, performers and producers of music), music users particularly broadcasters, hoteliers, restauranteurs, disc jockeys, night clubs, owners of online and digital platforms, etc, and the general public are hereby alerted that COSON has been illegal ab-initio and any business conducted with the organisation was illegal and had no basis in law.

“It should also be stressed that this organisation has equally been operating illegally in the last two years without approval or licence as a collective management organisation/collecting society and in defiance of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), the government agency regulating copyright matters in Nigeria. It is now up to the NCC to make the promoters and managers of COSON to account for these two years among others with appropriate legal force,” he added.

MCSN also warned that anyone who still continues to recognise or do business with COSON would be at the risk of such a person or company as they may be liable as accomplices under relevant laws, particularly the Copyright Act 2004.

It further assured music creators in Nigeria and affiliates worldwide that whatever that may have been collected within the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on their works and creativities in terms of royalties would be fully retrieved and duly accounted for.