Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Nigeriaâ€™s government approved
collective management organization for musical works and sound recordings has filed a Ten Billion naira copyright infringement action against Daar Communications Plc, Nigeriaâ€™s biggest privately owned broadcast network which operates stations such as Ray Power FM, Faaji FM and Africa Independent Television (AIT) scattered all over Nigeria. The suit No. FHC/L/CS/1392/13 filed on October 7, 2013 on behalf of COSON at the Federal High Court, Lagos by crack Intellectual Property lawyer, Mr. Justin Ige, is the biggest known copyright infringement action ever in the African continent.
In the action, COSON is asking for the sum of N724, 500, 000. 00 (Seven Hundred and Twenty Four Million, Five Hundred Thousand Naira) being amount due as royalties or license fees.
COSON is also asking for general and exemplary damages and a perpetual injunction restraining Ray Power FM, Faaji FM and Africa Independent Television (AIT) managed by Chief Raymond Dokpesi, their agents, privies or servants from further or other unauthorized copying, broadcast of musical works or sound recordings belonging to the members, affiliates and assignors of COSON and/or infringement of the copyright in the musical works or sound recordings belonging to the members, affiliates and assignors of COSON.
The historic action is clearly in fulfillment of the pledge made by COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji in his â€˜No Music Dayâ€™ speech on September 1, 2013 that in the copyright battle, there will be no sacred cow. Chief Okoroji had said, â€˜COSON is determined to substantially increase the royalty distributable to stakeholders in the music industry to match the massive use of music in our nation. Last year, COSON was compelled to institute several law suits against some users of music and sound recordings in Nigeria. This was after every attempt at moral suasion had failed. COSON had to go to court as a last resort. As you know, the court actions were productive. It however appears that old habits die hard. Some of the users may have gone back to their old ways and not all have learnt the lesson that the days of free music are gone in Nigeria forever. Some may also be testing the resolve of COSON.
â€˜I therefore wish to make it clear that the resolve of COSON to protect the rights of music industry practitioners and to collect copyright royalties for the use of their music and sound recordings is rock solid. We will not waiver and there will be no sacred cows. Our commitment to the cause of defending the rights of music industry practitioners in Nigeria is unshaken and unshakable. Very soon, we will bring the full weight of the law on all those who have refused to learn that the times have changed. Let me assure you that our approach this time will be very different. I wish to state clearly that it is far cheaper to obtain a COSON licence for the music used by anyone than to engage COSON in an expensive law suit which that person is sure to lose because in this day and age, no court of law anywhere will enter a judgment to the effect that anyone can freely abuse the intellectual property of othersâ€™
Commenting on the development, COSON General Manager, Mr Chinedu Chukwuji said, â€˜I donâ€™t know why people have to wait until things come to a head like this. I guess the belief is that COSON is like some organizations that make noise without acting. At COSON, we are very professional. Our word is our bond. If we tell you that we will take action, we will take action and we will stay on the action till its logical conclusion. We have sworn to defend the rights of musicians and the music industry in Nigeria no matter what it takes. We have the law behind us; we have the musicians of Nigeria behind us; we have the international community behind us and we have God with us. Let it be known that we will not be intimidated by anyoneâ€™