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MTN in Copyright Infringement mess; may lose further ₦16bn

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MTN Nigeria is in another legal tussle only this time, it is with the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON). The nation’s sole government approved collective management organization for musical works and sound recordings, COSON, has filled a fresh ₦16bn lawsuit against the telecom giant, MTN.

After becoming a limited liability company last year, it is been one legal battle after the other. Despite losing over 2.6 million subscribers in a perpetual tussle with the NCC and suffering the biggest casualty in the ongoing Data Wars, the telecommunications giant has managed to retain its spot as Nigeria’s largest network. Perhaps this is why it appears to be the easiest target.

In a statement released on the COSON’s blog,

This is the biggest copyright law suit ever in the continent of Africa with 18 separate claims endorsed on the writ supported by a 43 paragraph Statement of Claim filed by Lagos Intellectual property lawyer, Mr. Justin Ige of Creative Legal.

In the suit No. FHC/L/CS/619/2016, COSON has asked the court for six different declarations of copyright infringement perpetrated by MTN in the MTN Friendship’, ‘Connect’ or ‘Walk In’ Centres across Nigeria; the MTN ‘Road Shows’ in Nigeria; the various MTN Music Concerts, Festivals, Award Shows, Product Activations and Corporate events; the MTN Callertunez platform; the MTN Music Plus Platform and the MTN Mobile Radio”.

According to COSON, MTN keeps a staggering 60% – 70% of the revenue made from CRBTs to itself, leaving Record Labels, VAS providers and the artistes themselves to scuffle for the remaining 30% – 40%. As unfair as that might seem, it appears to be norm all over the world. But rather than filing lawsuits, artistes are finding other ways to take back power.

That being said, the lawsuit goes beyond just CRBTs. COSON is also suing MTN for copyright infringements in music downloads, music concerts, award shows and product activation. They’ve gone further to request for an injunction restraining MTN, its agents or privies from the continued infringement of the copyright in the musical works and sound recordings belonging to members, affiliates and assignors of the society.

After recovering from paying the N1.04 trillion fine slammed on it by the telecoms regulatory authority, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), this is another hurdle to scale true. However, MTN is yet to issue any official statement to address the allegations.

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