SOUTH African owned Nigerian cable and satellite Television and Radio channels distribution giant, Multichoice Nigeria Limited, has dragged the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria(MCSN) to court following its inability to recognise the latter as a collecting society.
MCSN recently wrote the company asking it to pay its cumulative copyright charges and royalties in the sum of Four Billion, One Hundred and Fifty Seven Million, Four Hundred and Sixty Thousand, Five Hundred Naira (N4,157,460,500.00) Naira.
But instead of responding to the request, the cable giant dragged MCSN to a Lagos High Court, claiming that the body has no right to collect royalties since it is not registered by the Nigerian Copyright Commission, NCC as a collecting society.
Meanwhile, in a statement made available to Weekend Groove, MCSN on its own is claiming that most of the musical and related audio visual works from its repertoire are being utilised by Multichoice without any payment of royalty to the body.
“Multichoice has since the beginning of its operations in Nigeria refused or neglected to meet its legal copyright obligations within the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria neither has it paid any copyright royalties to the appropriate right owners since it began operations in Nigeria.
The point of law is very succinct- MCSN as an owner, assignee and exclusive licensee of copyright is legally bound to collect royalties due to it, in accordance to Sections 15 and 16 of the Copyright Act, Cap C.28 L.F.N. 2004.” the body stated in a statement.
In the Writ of Summons and other processes filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos, Multichoice is praying the court to declare that Multichoice is not obliged under the laws of the country to pay any monies or otherwise to MCSN, as royalties or other payment for material used in programming or content on the DSTV bouquet, unless the MCSN is licensed as a collecting society for that purpose by the Nigerian Copyright Commission.
Also, the company is praying the court to declare that the MCSN cannot demand, collect or receive monies from Multichoice, being payments for the use of material on programming and content on the DSTV bouquet, as a collecting society or otherwise, unless the Defendant (MCSN) is licensed as a collecting society by the Nigerian Copyright Commission under the enabling laws of the country among others.
However, feelers at the offices of MCSN revealed that the body is not in the least perturbed by the move of Multichoice, as it only shows that the South African owned company is not ready to honour its legal obligations to Nigerian organisations.
The source further revealed that the bulk of Multichoice profits across Africa including South Africa, was realised from Nigeria and yet the company is refusing to fulfil its copyright obligation to the appropriate Nigerian copyright owners, assignees and exclusive licensees, which MCSN represent.
According to our source, MCSN’s management is assembling a team of crack lawyers versed in Copyright Law to be led by some Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) to tackle Multichoice in this case, as the outcome would have far-reaching effects on the protection of copyright in Nigeria and the continent at large.
“A South African organisation cannot be using monies and profits made from Nigeria to sustain and grow South African organisations and economy to the detriment of Nigerian organizations and economy, not minding the fact that they were using some Nigerians as surrogates”. The source further reasoned.
Chairman of MCSN, Orits Williki, in a telephone chat with Weekend Groove declared that “the Multichoice suit can be likened or compared to a case of a thief challenging the owner of a stolen property on the claim that the property owner is not a police officer.” The suit is yet to be assigned to a judge.