MCSN warns on infringement of musical copyrights as court rulings affirm its powers

Following the various judicial decisions, in its favor at the Federal High Court to the Supreme Court, the Musical Copyright Society Nigeria Ltd/Gte (MCSN) has stated that no users of musical works can now hide under any excuse not to fulfill their copyright obligations to MCSN as its large repertoire of musical works, sound recordings and even audiovisual works as owner, assignee and the exclusive licensee is intact.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Society, Mr. Mayo Ayilaran, in a zoom conference urged users of musical works to be careful of who they deal with over them as the series of judicial pronouncements in their favor means no users of musical works can now hide under any excuse not to fulfill its obligations.

He reiterated that based on the victory at the court, whatever claims any rival society may have had or still has including licenses, contracts, assignments, royalty collections, distributions were illegal, null and void as the court of law already unassailably confirmed the locus standi of the MCSN especially since such agreements were reached while the decided cases were pending in the courts, adding that anyone still doing business with any rival company does so at his or her own peril.

The suit which conferred locus standi on the MCSN is delineated FHC/L/CS/274/2010. The case was between the Musical Copyright Society Nigeria Ltd/Gte vs. Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd/Gte and others. The Federal High Court in deciding the matter on March 25, 2020, held that the approval of COSON has an anomaly and ordered the Corporate Affairs Commission to strike out the name of COSON from the Companies’ Register in Nigeria.

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According to Ayilaran, “the implication of this judgment is that COSON never existed in law and anything that has been done in its name was illegal, null, and void. Aside from the foregoing and assuming that if the case in MCSN vs. COSON & Ors had gone in favor of COSON, COSON would still have been caught with the requirement to be approved by the NCC as a CMO because it came into being after the establishment of the NCC and the enactment of the Copyright Act 2004 as implied in all the judgments of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

“The judgment also confirms MCSN’s complaints way back in 2009 that COSON’s formation was based on deceit and fraud, which was meant to illegally supplant. Both the National Assembly Resolutions and the directive of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice underscored the underhand and inexplicable denial of approval to MCSN by the NCC,” he said.

MCSN buttressed the strong backing the organisation has by the provisions of the law in view of the judgment given in another matter by the Court of Appeal judgment in Appeal No. CA/L/188/2018 on May 29, 2020, in a case between Multichoice Nigeria Limited vs. Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd/Gte where the Appellate court upheld N5.9 billion damages against the cable outfit in favour of the Society.

“This judgment of the Court of Appeal affirms MCSN’s proprietary rights in musical works and sound recordings and to be duly compensated for the exploitation of the works by users such as Multichoice Nigeria Limited. The judgment also affirms the legal standing of MCSN and the right to act on right of action which it has acquired long before the NCC was established or the enactment of the Copyright Act 2004,” he explained.

The judgment considered nine issues out of which it resolved six in favour of MCSN against Multichoice; two were struck out for being academic and want of jurisdiction and one was resolved equally between MCSN and Multichoice. The judgment affirmed the ruling of the Federal High Court in a suit delineated FHC/L/CS/1091/2011 between Multichoice Nigeria Limited vs. Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd/Gte delivered on January 19 2018.

It confirmed the award of damages in the sum of N 5.9 billion in favour of MCSN after varying the special damages to correct mathematical calculations on the single ground tabled for resolution by MCSN which was resolved in MCSN’s favour.

It would be recalled that MCSN has been engrossed in diverse battles to defend its right to operate vis-à-vis its right to earn or be paid royalties due from the use of works in its repertoire, particularly by broadcast stations, whether terrestrial, digital or satellite.

MCSN expressed appreciation to Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, who at a point intervened and directed that the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) should grant MCSN approval to operate as a collecting society or Collective Management Organisation (CMO) and cease all forms of litigation between MCSN and the NCC.


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