Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the nation’s sole collective management organization for musical works and sound recordings has filed an application at the Federal High Court, Lagos requesting the court to issue an order of interlocutory injunction restraining NTA-Star TV Network Ltd, owners of Startimes, the pay TV platform, whether by itself or its officials, privies, servants, agents or howsoever called from broadcasting, rebroadcasting or communicating to the public on any channel on its platform any musical work and/or sound recording belonging to COSON, its members or affiliates pending the determination of the issues in Suit No. FHC/CS/1149/14.
The application filed by Mr. Justin Ige of Creative Legal, is supported by a 15 paragraph affidavit sworn to by Chief Tony Okoroji, the COSON Chairman and well known advocate for intellectual property rights across Africa. In the affidavit, COSON claims that the operators of Startimes have never paid any royalties for the public performance, broadcast or rebroadcast of musical works and sound recordings belonging to its members, assignors and affiliates and that there is a real likelihood that the operators of Startimes will continue to engage in the broadcasting, rebroadcasting and public performance of the musical works and sound recordings belonging to the members, assignors and affiliates of COSON during the pendency of the suit, if they are not restrained.
The application filed by COSON is a fallout of the originating summons initiated by the operators of Startimes, which had gone to court asking for an order restraining COSON ‘from further writing, threatening or obstructing the Applicant’s business or demanding for royalties pending the determination of the substantive suit.’
In opposing the application by the operators of Startimes, Chief Tony Okoroji, the Chairman of COSON, deposed to a counter affidavit in which he stated that in compliance with the law and respect for the rights of the owners of the intellectual property deployed by all broadcasting platforms in Nigeria, the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON), the Independent Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN), the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) and COSON on May 21, 2014 at a widely reported event in Lagos signed an agreement by which every broadcast operator in Nigeria is bound to obtain a licence and pay royalties to COSON for the broadcast of musical works and sound recordings. According to Chief Okoroji’s affidavit, despite the COSON/BON/IBAN/NBC/NCC Agreement, despite the provisions of the law, despite the efforts made by COSON to get the operators of Startimes to respect the intellectual property of COSON members, affiliates and assignors and despite the fact that other organizations in a similar trade as the operators of Startimes and operating under the same environment have obtained the licence of COSON and are paying royalties for the copying, broadcasting and rebroadcasting of musical works and sound recordings by their establishments, the operators of Startimes continue to behave as if they are above the law and permitted to freely exploit the intellectual property of free citizens without consequence.
Furthermore, Chief Okoroji stated that the behaviour of the operators of Startimes which he stated is unacceptable in most countries around the world cannot be allowed to continue as it will lead to massive loss of jobs to the Nigerian nation, significant loss of revenue to the country and heavy capital flight from Nigeria.
Commenting on the developments, COSON General Manager, Mr. Chinedu Chukwuji said, “We have said it loud and clear that if anyone slaps COSON once, we will respond with five slaps. It is clear that we did not start this fight. With all humility, we are the masters of hard ball and anyone who thinks that COSON will be distracted or intimidated by whatever schemes or maneuvers they may engage in, had better bury the thought. COSON will continue to forcefully represent musicians and the music industry, a group of people whose rights have been trampled upon for too long in Nigeria. Apart from having on our board some of the nation’s best intellectual property lawyers and experts, we also engage some of the best external lawyers in the business. We are determined to establish a culture of respect for intellectual property rights in Nigeria. It is game over for abusers of copyright in Nigeria. There will be no hiding place for them.”