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Ade’s copyright suit set for Supreme Court

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King Sunny Ade

African Songs Limited (ASL) and its sister company, Take Your Choice Records Stores Limited (TYC), will appeal a Court of Appeal judgment which dismissed their appeal in an alleged copyright abuse case by popular musician King Sunny Ade.

TYC, founded by late Chief Bolarinwa Abioro, is seeking justice over an alleged breach of copyright agreement it entered into about 48 years ago with the juju maestro his Green Spot Band (now known as African Beats).

ASL and TYC’s counsel, Ademola Olowoyeye said the appeal would be filed as soon as the Supreme Court resumes from vacation.

The Court of Appeal in Lagos, in a lead judgment by Justice Biobele Georgewill, had dismissed the companies’ appeal on the basis that it lacked merit.

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It affirmed a Federal High Court judgment by Justice John Tsoho in which some of King Sunny Ade’s claims were granted.

But, ASL and TYC said they were confident of getting justice at the Supreme Court.
On why they are heading for the Supreme Court, ASL and TYC counsels said the copyright interest of the agreement extended far beyond five years.

According to them, the Court of Appeal did not consider key provisions of the agreement which states that “the artist shall not record, perform or repeat any record which hitherto has been previously recorded for the company until 20 after the previous recording for the company of such records, performance or repeat records.”

The appellants further argued that the agreement provides that the ASL “is still entitled to the sole right of production, sale (under such trademarks as it may select) use and performance (including broadcasting) throughout the world by any means whatsoever of records manufactured in pursuance of its agreement with artist.”

According to the appellants, it was also stated that “the artist agree that they will assign to the company the full copyright in music, lyrics of any works that artist records for the company where such works are the original compositions of the artist.”

They had told the Court of Appeal that the copyright agreement duly entered into on October 6, 1970 between ASL and King Sunny Ade and his band is still valid and subsisting.

King Sunny Ade had sought damages against ASL over a breach of contract and for the continuous infringement of the copyright in his musical works/songs.

He sought N1billion as general damages against ASL and TYC, as well as an order compelling them to deliver to him all the copies of the photographs or likeness of King Sunny Ade in their possession.

In a November 12, 2015 judgment, Justice Tsoho granted some of the reliefs, and awarded damages against ASL and TYC, now being managed by the late Chief Abioro’s son, Mr. Abubakar Abioro.

Dissatisfied, the defendants appealed, and sought a declaration that the copyright in all the musical works, which are composed by King Sunny Ade pursuant to the October 6, 1970 agreement between ASL and the musician and his band still subsists.

The appellants sought a declaration that King Sunny Ade’s suit at the lower court was an abuse of judicial process undertaken to their prejudice and financial loss.


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