By Ogbonna Amadi
In an historic judgement, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos and presided over by Justice I. A Auta awarded a record N100million in damages against mobile telecommunication company, Zain (formerly known as Networks and trading under the name of VMobile )for infringing on the rights of registered members of the Musical Copyright Society Nigeria (MCSN).
MCSN had in suit number FHC/L/CS/707/2005 asked the Federal Court to award it N100million in damages against the company telecom company for infringing on its rights in musical works like â€œEverything I do.Â I do it for you,â€ written by Bryan Adams, Robert John Lange and Michael Arnold Karmen of ASCAP, PRS, and BMI respectively in 2005.
Following the historic judgement, Mr. Mayo Ayilaran, the Director General of MCSN in this interview with Halim Mohammed proclaimed thatÂ the historic judgement marks the beginning of a new and robust era of copy right administration in the country.
Zain network formally known as Celtel or Econet or VmobileÂ has over the years been using music to launch andÂ promote their business.
It didnâ€™t bother them that they had to obtain a license before they use works of our members and when we alerted them, they refused to bulge.
Instead they went ahead again to use some of our musical worksÂ as ring tones which they sold to subscribers and made profit.
We wrote letters, called for meetings, initially they ignored everything but when we became persistent they replied but were not ready for settlement. We had no alternative than to approach the court, at least to test the law.
So we sued them in 2005 claiming damages of N100million naira. And as soon as we began the case, they started filling objections and motions. And we took them on.
At a point they approached us for settlement. They appealed that if we settle, then there will be room to do more business, which we thought was reasonable. So we told our lawyers to hold on and asked for an adjournment sine die that is for a long period until we got back.
We felt they will suggest or propose a figure to us to resolve the matter. And so we were surprised to the marrow when our lawyers informed us they were offeringÂ N250, 000.00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand).
Our first reaction was, what do we do with that kind of money? .Will that amount cover the money we have paid our lawyers to start the case in court? Or will it pay theÂ final fee?
Unhappy, we went back to the court to ask for a re-list and gave our reasons.Â And the court graciously allowed the re-list of the case.
Between Dialogue and Litigation.
Oh! For heavenâ€™s sake we are very open to dialogue at any point in time. In fact litigation is always our last option where we have tried every trick.
But when you say that our efforts or simplicity or whatever, is not worth it and you ignore it, then we now resort to litigation.
Redefining copyright administration in the country
Definitely this is the first case in this country proven, where people can now know thatÂ copyright is not about putting somebody in jail, or where people will think that piracy is a case of chasing people and raiding. No.
Copyright is putting money in the pockets of the artistes, not just any how money, but quality money.
So what Iâ€™m saying in essence is that copyright is meant to enrich creators, to give material benefits, material reward to the creator. So if I go to court against any infringer, Iâ€™m not interested in locking or putting him in jail. If I put him in jail, it is still my moneyÂ that will be used in taking care of him; to feed him, clothe him and so on and so forth.
That is the reality. We need to show to the world that in this country, copyright is a very important sector of the economy that will continue to yield good money for the nation.