Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the nation’s sole government approved collective management organization for musical works and sound recordings, has slapped Lagos Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island with a historic N500 million copyright infringement action. Also joined in the suit is Mr. Philip Speilhage, General Manager of the organization.
In Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1091/15 filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos, COSON is asking for the award of more than five hundred million naira in unpaid royalties and damages for the unauthorized copying, communication to the public, permission to perform in public and infringement of the copyright in the musical works and sound recordings belonging to COSON members, affiliates and assignors.
In the writ endorsed by Lagos IP lawyer, Mr. Justin Ige of Creative Legal, Seun Omotoba & Co, COSON has also asked the court for exemplary and aggravated damages. The action against the owners of Lagos Oriental Hotel is supported by a 39 paragraph Statement of Claim. COSON is also requesting for a perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants, their agents, privies or servants from the unauthorized copying, communication to the public, permission to perform and infringement of the copyright in the musical works or sound recordings belonging to COSON members, affiliates and assignors.
Reacting to the development, COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji said, ‘Contrary to the belief in some quarters, Nigeria is not a lawless country. Our laws work. We have gone to court to find out if Lagos Oriental Hotel is special and above Nigerian law. As of today, several top hotels doing business across Nigeria are obeying the law, have got authorization for the music they deploy and are paying royalties for the deployment of the music. Such hotels include Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island; Transcorp Hilton, Abuja; Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Abuja; Protea Hotel, GRA, Ikeja; Intercontinental Hotel, Victoria Island; Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Raddison Blu, Victoria Island; Chelsea Hotel, Abuja, Sereba Hotel, Edo, Rockview Hotel, Abuja; The Moore House, Ikoyi; Protea Hotel, Victoria Island, Santex Hotel, Edo State; Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Valencia Hotel, Abuja; Southern Sun, Ikoyi, Nanet Suites, Abuja; Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja; Protea Hotel, Abuja, Savoy Suites, Ikeja, Agura Hotel, Abuja; Golden Tulip, Lagos, Victoria Beach Hotel, Lagos, etc., etc.
“It is my advice to all those who think that they can continue to get away with the illegal exploitation of the rights of musicians in Nigeria to think twice. COSON is not a toothless bull dog; we may bark hard but we bite even harder. For many months, we have used every available means to engage Lagos Oriental Hotel and its management on the requirement to pay for the use of music in their facility as is done everywhere in the world. Each time, we have met a brick wall. We believe in our courts and we are very interested in finding out if Nigerian laws will be turned upside down just for this set of people.”
Also commenting on the development, COSON General Manager, Mr. Chinedu Chukwuji, said, ‘We have always been one to deliver on our words at COSON. Last year we lunched ‘Operation No Hiding Place’ and promised all music users who have continued to show disdain for the rights of our members and affiliates that they are in for a rough ride. We are approved by the government to revolutionize the copyright culture in Nigeria for the good of the nation. We will continue to do that without any apologies. We are on course and we are not looking back”.
It will be recalled that in December 2014, COSON requested all musicians, music industry operatives and stakeholders in the creative sector to begin a boycott of Lagos Oriental Hotel. The decision to boycott the hotel was ratified by hundreds of COSON members who thronged Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 for the COSON Extra-Ordinary General Meeting. The boycott was predicated on the failure of Lagos Oriental Hotel to license its facilities for the use of musical works and sound recordings as required by law, despite repeated requests.