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Paul Play Vs Etisalat: Stakeholders Urge Brands To Play By Copyright Rules

By Abiodun Obisesan
27 February 2015   |   11:00 pm
  THE Nigerian Copyright Commissions (NCC) has weighed in on the lingering copyright law suit between Etisalat Nigeria and Nigeria’s R&B Soul Singer, Paul Play Dairo, requesting that brand owners, marketing strategists and other brand building experts should seek permission from artists before deploying their creative contents. The matter has sent tongues wagging over the…


THE Nigerian Copyright Commissions (NCC) has weighed in on the lingering copyright law suit between Etisalat Nigeria and Nigeria’s R&B Soul Singer, Paul Play Dairo, requesting that brand owners, marketing strategists and other brand building experts should seek permission from artists before deploying their creative contents. The matter has sent tongues wagging over the enormity of the compensation being sought by the music artiste who wants the telecommunication giant to cough up to N200 million in the litigation. This has generated concerns by industry watchers that the development might drive a wedge between artistes’ desire to protect their intellectual work and the desire of brand owners to further engage with consumers through entertainment. 

  In the last decade, the creative Nigerian music industry has become a launch pad and leveraging tool for brand builders within the marketing communication. Hence, it is not uncommon to find discerning brands literarily queuing behind music reality shows, experiential marketing shows, road shows and other captivating social platforms to make top of mind impression among consumers. Conversely, the ensuing chasm between artistes and brand owners over the flagrant violation of intellectual property has assumed frightening dimensions in the wake of efforts by several copyright institutions to sensitise Nigerian artists.

  It would be recalled that Paul Play Dairo recently filed a N200 million lawsuit against telecommunications company, Etisalat, for using his song, Mosorire, in its popular reality series, Nigerian Idol, without seeking his consent. In the suit filed at a Lagos High court and marked FHC/CS/581/2014, Optima Media Group was made co-defendant. The Mosorire crooner had established that the defendants had used his hit song which was an adaption from his father, IK Dairo’s popular hit, to promote their reality TV show, Nigerian Idol, in 2012 and 2013.

  He had alleged that during the course of the programme, a contestant was made to reproduce his song and sing it without his express permission as the owner of the song. The court paper in part reads. “I am the copyright owner of the work named and tagged ‘Mosorire,’ contained in my repertoire, exclusively for the jurisdiction of Nigeria and the authority or permission to exploit such work can only be obtained from me.” 

  He accused the organisers of Nigerian Idol, Etisalat Nigeria, for the use, adaptation and deployment of ‘Mosorire’ on the said show without his consent. The said performance was broadcast to several millions of television viewers throughout Nigeria and the rest of Africa for the 2012 and 2013 editions.

  Paul Play maintained that as a singer and composer, he was entitled to an annual fee of N100 million on the track. He stated that “having made use of my song without my express consent, the defendants, Etisalat and Optima Media Group, have made him lose some money, while they made gains and improved on their own brand image.”

  Reacting to the development, Director/Zonal Manager, Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Barrister Chris Nwokocha, told The Guardian that Paul Play’s move is most commendable because it is a clear indication that right owners have a future based on the weight of NCC’s law.

  “Getting the consent of the owner of any intellectual property is appropriate. One of the statutory mandates is to have public enlightenment programmes on matters relating to copyright to the general public and stakeholders in particular. My advice is that since the issue of copyright is global, and nobody is above the law, such corporate bodies and brands should learn how to obey the law.”

  He stated that NCC has been sensitising artistes at workshops, seminars and symposia to on their rights as creative persons. Hence, Nigerians should not take them for granted. 

  “The issue of copyright violation is not just peculiar to Nigeria. This is why 184 countries are signatories to this international copyright convention under the umbrella of World Intellectual Property Organisation, an agency of the United Nations, which is responsible for intellectual property administration globally. The essence of this is to be able to ensure that individual countries respect the right, which right owners have with regards to their artistic or intellectual property for both local and international artists,” Nwokocha said.  

  According to Chapter C28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, section 28 of the neighbouring right, 14, a performer’s right is infringed by a person who, without the performer’s consent or authorisation in writing, performs in public the whole or a substantial part of the performance.

  When contacted by The Guardian, the Public Relations Manager Regulatory & Corporate Affairs Division, Etisalat Nigeria, Chineze Amanfo, distanced the company from the crisis. She noteted that “we are aware of certain publications alleging the unauthorised use of Paul Play Dairo’s song, ‘Mosorire,’ by Etisalat Nigeria, in the 2012 and 2013 editions of the television reality show, ‘Nigeria Idol.’ 

 “W ewish to state that Etisalat Nigeria was not the organiser or promoter of the show, but merely had sponsorship rights and was not in any way involved in the process of determining the content and or production of the show. A suit was instituted by Mr. Paul Dairo at the Federal High Court, Lagos in respect of the claim in April 2014 and we, therefore,                                                                                     do not intend to make comments on the matter.”

  Amanfo submitted that one of Etisalat Nigeria’s core values as an organisation is growing and empowering people.

  “Hence the Etisalat brand will continue to empower upcoming stars using different sponsorship platforms, deliver innovative products and services, as well as superior quality of network,” he added. 

  According to a copyright lawyer, Joseph Olumide, the issue of copyright violation is very grave within the Nigerian laws that govern intellectual property. 

  “Copyright is governed by the Copyright Act, and brands need to be given proper briefing before sponsoring any show. Also, those playing in the Nigerian music industry need proper orientation regarding the value of their artistic work. This, under the copyright act,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   means that whatever is produced that is peculiar to you will be protected under the law.” 

  He, however, bemoaned the ignorance of Nigerians and artists concerning the issues relating to copyright. “The mere fact that we sing foreign songs produced by artistes outside the country is not excusable. If foreign artistes are aware of the use of their creative works without doing due diligence, most brands and those leveraging on their intellectual properties would have paid handsomely for it. They are more enlightened than us here,” he said.  

  He advised brands to seek for permission before using artistic works of Nigerians. “Although, the exception is for those used for pedagogic purpose; but it must not be used for the purpose of making money. If it is used for the purpose of making money or brand building, they have to seek the consent, which must be properly obtained before it can be used. If Paul Play’s consent was not sought and his music was used, it means that they have violated the copyright law and they have to pay for it.”