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Plaintiff produces witness, closes case against MTN, three others in copyright dispute violation

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An Abuja-based music producer yesterday testified before Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu in a suit of copyright violation against MTN Nigeria Communication Ltd and three others after which the plaintiff closed his case.

The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/2017 was instituted in 2017 by the copyright owner of ‘Love is Everything’, Liberty Williams, whose stage name is Pupayannis against the four defendants – MTN, its Chief Executive Officer, Ferdi Moolman; No Where to Run Entertainment Ltd and Emmanuel Abanah.

At the resumed sitting yesterday, the witness, Mr. Dominic Danjuma Tabakaji, led in evidence by the team of five counsel including Dr. Ogaga Ifowodo and Rockson Igelige of Felix, Igelige and Associates, affirmed before the court that he knew the plaintiff.

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As the Managing Director, an Abuja-based Gun-Kicks Enter-10-Ment, he stated that his relationship with the plaintiff has to do with the recording and production of the song, ‘Love is Everything’ (audio), which is the subject matter of this suit.

“That on July 18, 2013, I recorded and produced the song for the Plaintiff in this suit. He paid me for the recording and production of the song, the sum of N150,000 and I issued him an invoice bearing his name dated July 18, 2013 as proof of the transaction.

“After the production, I handed over the master tape of the song to the Plaintiff. I never had any dealings, production wise with the defendants as regards the Song which is the subject matter of the suit,” he stated.

Under Cross examination led by the counsel to the first and second defendants, the witness confirmed that his company was involved in music production and that he was not in anyway a party to the plaintiff against the third and the fourth defendants who are record labels.

However, both the third and fourth defendants were absent from court without any explanation to the court. They were to present the only listed witness for evidence.

The plaintiff had in 2017, instituted a legal action against the defendants. In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/2017, he prayed the court for a declaration that the Exclusive Recording Contract he entered with the third defendant (No Where to Run Entertainment Limited, a record label) on October 31, 2013 did not give the defendants the right to use, licence or assign the copyright to his past works, including the song, ‘Love is Everything’ (audio), that plaintiff had produced before the said contract without his consent first sought and obtained.

The plaintiff is also seeking a declaration that the copyright in the song Love is Everything (audio), composed and produced by Plaintiff before his exclusive recording contract with the third defendant, reproduced, stored electronically and sold by the first defendant (MTN) to its millions of subscribers or customers nationwide as a ring tone or caller tune upon the payment of N50 each for one month, with the option of monthly renewals at N50 per month, is the exclusive property of the plaintiff.

The plaintiff is also seeking among other declarations that the sale or offer for a fee of plaintiff’s song by MTN to its subscribers or customers without the consent, licence and/or authorisation of the plaintiff first sought and obtained constitutes an infringement of plaintiff’s copyright; and that the sale or offer for a fee of Plaintiff’s song by MTN and its Chief Executive Officer to their subscribers or customers for a period of three years or more without any effort whatsoever to ascertain the copyright or, having reason to be aware of his copyright, to obtain Plaintiff’s permission, constitutes a flagrant violation of his copyright.

The plaintiff, therefore, sought an order of the court, awarding the sum of N200 million against the defendants as general damages and N100 million as aggravated and punitive damages for the unlawful and flagrant infringement of plaintiff’s copyright.

The matter has been adjourned till September 24 for the defendants to call their witness.

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In this article:
Justice Ijeoma OjukwuMTN
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