A legal battle between an Abuja-based Isoko musician, Dovie Okson Omenuwoma, who claims that MTN has infringed on his copyright is set to commence. Arrangements have concluded by the Felix, Igelige, & Associates that allow them drag MTN Nigeria to court for infringing on their client’s copyright.
A statement issued on behalf of the Felix, Igelige, & Associate in Abuja, signed by Dr Ogaga Ifowodo, alleges that MTN Nigeria infringed on their client Dovie Omenuwoma’s copyright by turning four musical works belonging to him into MTN caller tunes and ringtones, and selling them, without his permission.
According to the statement, N500,000,000 (five hundred million naira) is being demanded from MTN as compensation for using Mr Dovie Omenuwoma's music work over a period of three years and selling same as caller tunes without his permission.
The statement read in part that:
“Mr Dovie Okson Omenuwoma is our client, he is the author and copyright owner of four musical works ‘Gentleman', 'Omotena’, 'Twisted' and ‘Unity Song’ by MTN Nigeria with code 001087 (Gentleman), 001088 (Omotena), 001089 (Twisted) and 001090 (Unity Song). These songs are being used as caller tunes/ringtones, stored electronically, reproduced and offered to MTN's subscribers upon the payment N50 each, for a period of one month, and subject to another N50 renewal charge. The four musical works are contained in our client’s compact disc which he created, produced, and released in 2005.”
"As the copyright owner, Baba 2010 has a number of exclusive rights defined by the Copyright Act, Cap 28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. These include the right to reproduce the works, and to publish and communicate them to the public, (including by way of sale and broadcast, both conventionally and online or via the internet). It is an infringement of copyright to do any of these or other protected acts, in relation to the whole or substantial part of a copyright work, or to authorise anyone to do such an act or acts on your behalf, without prior permission or licence of the copyright owner.”
Dr Ifowodo said by not obtaining permission from Baba 2010 before engaging in the act of selling his works, MTN's conduct constitutes a flagrant and deliberate infringement of copyright which is tantamount to stealing and deprivation of Baba 2010's gains of his labor.
Meanwhile the lead Counsel to Mr Dovie Okson Omenuwoma, Rockson Igelige, who represented the Felix, Igelige, & Associates at the Nigerian Copyright Commission, said his team is determined to prove beyond doubt, that MTN Nigeria committed criminal act and therefore solicited for the Copyright Commission’s support in prosecuting the MTN managing director in line with section 22 of the copyright law.
The Westminster-trained entertainment lawyer and rights activist made this appeal when he presented four witnesses at the head office of the Nigerian Copyright Commission in Abuja. The four witnesses who testified against MTN include Mr. Dovie Okson Omenuwoma (Baba 2010), Miss Bolah Igeh, Miss Patience Chinonso Owunna, and Master Zino Mena. Others who witnessed the presentation include the President of Abuja Resident Musicians Association Mr King Faj and the Director of Music Mr George Humphrey. The Nigerian Copyright Commission team was led by Mr Amodu and Barr AT. Koho, the Director of Prosecution.
The Copyright Commission team was overwhelmed by the evidence presented by the lead counsel and as well as revelation by the witnesses.
However, MTN Nigeria has appealed for more time to allow them investigate and revert on the five hundred million naira claim. The MTN Nigeria legal advisors Obiageli Maduka and Olasubomi Osoba made the request.