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Multichoice to pay billions of naira for copyright infringement

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A Federal High Court, Lagos has ordered Multichoice Nigeria Limited to pay the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd./GTE (MCSN) billions of naira as damages for copyright infringement.

Multichoice had in 2011 sued MCSN for asking for royalties in some musical works it claimed were among its repertories.

In the suit, Multchoice claimed that MCSN was not registered as a collecting society in accordance with the Nigeria Copyright Commission Acts of 2011 and therefore lacked legitimacy to ask for the royalties on the copyright works.

But MCSN averred that since its incorporation in 1984 and through the various deeds of assignment of copyright from several Nigerian composers, authors, publishers, directors and producers of musical and audio-visual works, the reciprocal representation agreements between it and the Performing Rights Society (PRS) and Mechanical–Copyright Protection Society (MCPS), both of the United Kingdom and other sister organizations throughout the world, she had, as owner, assignee and exclusive licensee of copyright, been protecting and enforcing her rights in Nigeria.

It also averred that Multichoice served as a conduit for related companies like Mnet South Africa, Napsers and Dstv (Digital Satellite Television) by re-transmitting and broadcasting television signals of these entities, amongst several others, to the whole of Nigeria.

Amongst the content of such re-broadcast are works belonging to MSCN as owners, assignee and exclusive licensee.

In the judgment delivered last Friday, after eight years of the legal tussle, Justice Mohammed Idris struck out Multichoice’s claims for not conforming to the rules of court.

The judge, who cited several authorities, held that the defect was fundamental and could not be remedied even with an amendment.

Justice Idris noted that the plaintiff’s writ of summons was not signed by a legal practitioner as stipulated by the rules of court, which made it incurably defective and liable to be strike out.

He therefore struck out the claims and went ahead to uphold the counter-claim filed by MSCN.

Justice Idris also held that Multichoice infringed on the copyright of MCSN in the course of and to promote their businesses and to make profit without the authority or licence of right owners and the society has suffered loss and damage.

He said: “The court having delivered judgment striking out the Multichioce’s claims, hereby ordered as follows: That judgment is entered in favour of the defendant/counter-claimant in the following terms: 5,490,652,125.00 only as special damages comprising of: N4,157,460,500.000 which became due and collectable from 6th January 2006 to January 2012, inclusive of Value added Tax of N197,950,500 only payable to the Federal Government of Nigeria through Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria LTD/GTE, N200,000,000.00 only as general damages and N309,347,875.50 only as aggravated damages.”

In its counter-claim, MCSN had accused Multichoice of infringing on its copyright on 18 songs, including Konko Below and Never Far Away by Nigerian masked musician, Bisade Ologunde (alias Lagbaja.”

The other songs used by Multichoice ‘without lawful permission’ included UEFA Cup thematic music and UEFA Championship League thematic music.

Multichioce was alleged to have bluntly refused or neglected to voluntarily apply for and obtain the permission of the counter-c

laimant before deploying the musical works into the its broadcasting activities.



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