A Federal High Court in Lagos has awarded N5.9bn “special damages” against Multichoice Nigeria Limited in an eight-year-old copyright infringement legal battle between the operators of DSTV/GOTV and the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd, MCSN/GTE.
In a judgment delivered on Friday, the presiding judge, Mohammed Idris, struck out Multichoice’s claims against the defendant, the MCSN/GTE.
He ruled, “The court having delivered judgment this 19th day of January, 2018, striking out the plaintiff’s claims, it is hereby ordered as follows: That judgment is entered in favour of the defendant/counter-claimant in the following terms: N5,490,652,125.00 only as special damages.”
The court also awarded separate sums of N200m and N309m as general and aggravated damages respectively against Multichoice in favour of the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd./GTE.
Multichoice had dragged the MCSN to court in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1091/11 seeking a perpetual injunction restraining the group from asking or demanding it to obtain copyright licence for the broadcast and communication to the public of musical works on the radio and television channels operated and distributed by Multichoice.
According to the company, the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria was not licensed or approved by the Nigerian Copyright Commission as a collecting society.
The suit came after MCSN wrote to Multichoice in 2011 demanding N4.1bn as cumulative copyright and royalties for its body of works used by the latter during the airing of its programmes.
But in its counter-claim filed before the judge, MCSN accused Multichoice of copyright infringement on 18 songs in its repertoire, including ‘Konko Below’ and ‘Never Far Away’ by Nigerian masked musician, Bisade Ologunde, alias Lagbaja.
Other songs which the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd./GTE accused Multichoice of using without lawful permission included UEFA Cup thematic music and UEFA Championship League thematic music.
MCSN’s counter-claim reads, “the defendant to the counter-claim did each of these acts in the course of and to promote their businesses and to make profit without the authority or licence of the counter-claimant and the counter-claimant has suffered loss and damage.
“The defendant to the counter-claim bluntly refused or neglected to voluntarily apply for and obtain the permission of the counter-claimant before deploying the musical works of the counter-claimant’s repertoire into the defendant’s broadcasting activities.
“The defendant has continued to infringe upon the works and has threatened to do so continually unless restrained by this honourable court.
“By its acts of infringement aforesaid, well knowing that it was thereby infringing the copyright of the counter-claimant, the defendant has acted in flagrant disregard of the rights of the counter-claimant. On this premise, the counter-claimant is entitled to and claim from the defendant additional damages pursuant to Section 16(4) of the Copyright Act 2004.”