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COSON slams Sheraton Lagos with N1 billion law suit

‘It’s a serious joke’ – Sheraton Lagos

IN line with the thrust of its recently launched copyright enforcement initiative, ‘Operation No Hiding Place’, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the nation’s sole collective management organization for musical works and sound recordings, has filed a landmark copyright infringement action against Ikeja Hotels Ltd., owners of Sheraton, Lagos. Also joined in the suit is Sheraton Overseas Management Corporation, which manages hundreds of hotels in several countries across the globe and Mr. Barry Curran, General Manager of Ikeja Hotels Ltd.

In suit No. FHC/L/CS/1475/2014 filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos by Lagos IP lawyer, Mr. Justin Ige of

Creative Legal on September 29, 2014, COSON is asking for the award of N1.04 billion in unpaid royalties and damages against Sheraton Lagos, its owners and managers for the unauthorized copying, communication to the public, permission to perform and infringement of the copyright in the musical works and sound recordings belonging to COSON members and affiliates.

COSON also pleaded that the second and third defendants, Sheraton Overseas Management Corporation and Mr. Barry Curran, General Manager of Ikeja Hotels Ltd., have done nothing to end the brazen abuse of the intellectual property rights of owners of copyright in musical works and sound recordings at Sheraton Lagos Hotel, the expansive facility which they operate and manage in Nigeria respectively. According to collective organization, they have rather continued to enjoy the profit emanating from such abuse.

COSON maintains that by so doing, the hotel and its owners have continued to defy the laws of Nigeria which demand that creative people should be duly compensated for the exploitation of their works, an act which the organization wouldn’t have done   anywhere else in the world.

COSON is also “requesting a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, their agents, privies or servants from the unauthorised copying, communication to the public, permission to perform and infringement of the copyright in the musical works and sound recordings belonging to its members, affiliates and assignors.”

Tony OkorojiReacting to the development, COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji told ENCOMIUM Weekly on Friday, October 3, 2014, “Nigerian law is not a piece of artwork to be placed on the wall and admired. It is made to be respected and obeyed. Nobody should feel sorry for any hotel or music user sued by COSON.

For years, they have been reminded over and over again to act within the law. Some of them, however, believe that Nigeria is a place where there is no consequence for what you do so they treat the law with scorn.

They will soon find out that they are wrong. It is well known all over the world that you cannot deploy intellectual property belonging to someone else in your business without a licence. That is the linchpin of most strong economies in the world today but there are many in Nigeria who rake in millions from exploiting the works of creative people but show absolute contempt for the rights of the same creative people. We are committed to bringing that to an end.”

Continuing, the former President of PMAN and author of Copyright, Neighbouring Rights & the New Millionaires said, “While major hotels such as Transcorp Hilton, Southern Sun, Eko Hotels & Suites, Protea Ikeja, Wheatbaker, Raddison Blue, Golden Tulip, etc., are complying with the law, some others believe that they are highly connected and nobody can touch them. They will soon learn that the law is not a respecter of persons. Let them go and hire the most expensive Senior Advocates and pay them millions. At the end of the day, they will find out that they must obtain licences and pay for the music they use. We will make them learn that the law is the law.”

Also speaking the General Manager of COSON, Mr. Chinedu Chukwuji said, “Whatever we say at COSON, we will do. We have spoken to them for too long. We have exhausted all options and are left with no other choice but to take appropriate actions against those who will not listen to reason. When we chose the name ‘Operation No Hiding Place’ for our new copyright enforcement actions, we were not joking. There will be no hiding place for those who engage in infringement copyright in musical works and sound recordings in Nigeria. If we have not hit you yet, do not think that we are not seeing you. Do not wait. Resolve your issues now. It may be your turn tomorrow or the day after. Those who think that the law cannot be enforced in Nigeria will learn from COSON. COSON has been given the mandate by her members and international affiliates to ensure that their rights are well protected in Nigeria and we have no intentions to fail on that. We are not joking.”

Interestingly, officials of Sheraton Lagos say they are not perturbed by COSON’s suit. Dismissing the whooping N1 billion slammed on them, some of their staffers who were not authorized to speak on behalf of the hotel group laughed it off, tagging it ‘the joke of the year.’

“They would have as well claimed N100 billion. The truth still remains that Sheraton Lagos and its sister companies are responsible corporate citizens wherever they operate.”

When ENCOMIUM Weekly made official inquiries on Sunday, October 5, we were asked to call back on Monday, October 6, 2014.

It will be recalled that just recently, COSON launched an all-encompassing war against music copyright infringers in Nigeria in a campaign tagged, ‘Operation No Hiding Place’ and  has announced its determination to make operations impossible for all recalcitrant music users. And true to their promise, COSON has now slammed N1 billion suit on Sheraton Lagos. A move widely applauded by artistes and stakeholders, those familiar with the operations of COSON said, more organizations who don’t pay for the use of music should be meant to face the wrath of the law.

 

–  UCHE OLEHI

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