Within a month of filing an unprecedented 16 Billion Naira law suit against telecommunications giant, MTN, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the nation’s sole government approved collective management organization for musical works and sound recordings, has dragged Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services Ltd, the parent company of ETISALAT before the Federal High Court in Lagos claiming about N11 Billion for copyright infringement.
Fully committed to its recent pledge of an unprecedented showdown with copyright infringers and music copyright royalty defaulters in Nigeria, COSON has not only asked the court for seven different declarations of copyright infringement against ETISALAT in its “Experience” or “Flagship” Centres across the country; the various ETISALAT ‘Road Shows’ in Nigeria; the different ETISALAT Music Concerts, Festivals, Award Shows, Product Activations and Corporate events; the ETISALAT EASYTUNEZ platform; the ETISALAT CLOUD 9 Platform, etc, the no-nonsense copyright collective management organization has also demanded an account of all profits made by ETISALAT, its agents, privies and servants from the infringements of copyright in music belonging to COSON, its members, affiliates and assignors.
With 20 distinct claims endorsed on the writ supported by a 45 paragraph Statement of Claim filed by Lagos Intellectual property lawyer, Mr. Tochukwu Tagbo in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/756/2016, COSON which also represents in Nigeria over 135 Collective Management Organizations from every part of the world and the major international music labels such as Universal, Warner Music, Sony Music, etc., has also asked for a perpetual injunction restraining ETISALAT, its agents, privies and servants from the continued unauthorized copying, communication to the public, streaming, selling, broadcasting, making available for downloading and permitting the unauthorized performance to the public and infringement of the copyright in the musical works and sound recordings belonging to members, affiliates and assignors of COSON.
Attaching numerous exhibits to the Statement of Claim, COSON pleaded that the Government of President Muhammed Buhari has identified the entertainment industry as one of the key areas to be promoted in Nigeria to provide good paying jobs for young people in the country; to reduce crime and insurgency and boost the nation’s economy but that the activities of the likes of ETISALAT are set to torpedo the very good intentions of the government. COSON also stated that as a result of the refusal of ETISALAT to pay royalties for the musical works and sound recordings deployed in its operations, the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been denied several millions of naira being Value Added Tax (VAT) and other taxable income accruable to the government from the royalties.
COSON also warned of its concern that in frustration with the lawless behaviour of ETISALAT, individual right owners in musical works and sound recordings may be forced to take precipitate actions to protect their rights and this may lead to breakdown in law and order.
Speaking on the robust actions being taken by COSON to create a sustainable and strong music industry in Nigeria, Chief Tony Okoroji, the Chairman of COSON, who is a well-known former President of PMAN and one of Africa’s most respected authorities on Intellectual Property rights said, “Anyone who still thinks that COSON is joking needs to have his or her head examined. We are committed to stamping out the era of “monkey dey work, baboon dey chop” from the Nigerian music industry and establish a transparent and accountable industry in which everyone who invests his or her talent or resources can rest assured that his or her investment will be fully protected. We will not buckle under pressure from anyone no matter how mighty. Recently, we sued a federal government owned agency. We have gone to court against a State government. We have had to sue Nigeria’s biggest bank, wrestle in court with Nigeria’s biggest hotels and broadcast networks. At COSON, our belief is that no one is above the law.
“Anyone familiar with COSON knows that if we say that we are going to do something, we are going to do it. At COSON, we are resolute that the labour of Nigerian musicians and investors in the music industry who toil every day to make people happy will no longer be in vain. They cannot make people happy and be sad themselves. Anyone intending to exploit their sweat to serve his own purpose has COSON to deal with. We are not just fighting for individuals. We are fighting for the Nigerian nation. The recent crash in the price of crude oil should make it clear to everyone that our nation must change course. We can no longer afford to anchor the future of our children and grandchildren on the vagaries of the crude oil market. Our music and our movies in great demand everywhere in the world must count for something. They should contribute significantly to the nation’s GDP and provide jobs for hundreds of thousands of our citizens. The era of monkey dey work, baboon dey chop is over. We have asked our lawyers to go on ‘rampage’. Our brief to them is clear: there will be no untouchables and no sacred cows; no retreat, no surrender”.
Also speaking on the matter, Songstress and COSON Board Member, Azzezat Allen said ‘we have made a pledge to thousands of members across the country that music must pay. We have to keep that promise using every tool at our disposal. COSON doesn’t ever go to court without serious efforts in engaging the copyright defaulters. Sometimes you just get this feeling that they are daring you to do your worst. Eventually, we must let them know that we are not playing games. What COSON says it will do, COSON will do’.