The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), has launched a full-scale investigation into allegations of infringement by MTN Nigeria of the copyright of Dovie Okson Omenuwoma, an Abuja-based musician and entertainer.
Omenuwoma, aka Baba 2010, alleges that MTN is in flagrant violation of his copyright of four musical works by selling them as caller tunes or ringtones to its millions of customers without prior permission.
A letter to MTN’s Managing Director Michael Ikpoki, signed by Barr A. T. Kohol, NCC’s Director of Prosecution, a copy of which was made available to SaharaReporters, invites Ikpoki to appear at the commission’s Head Office, Federal Secretariat, Abuja, on Monday, October 28. He is requested to appear with call logs and any other documents that will help in the investigation of the alleged copyright violation.
It appears that NCC, the federal government agency vested with powers to administer and regulate copyright in Nigeria, will begin prosecution of the Managing Director if it establishes a prima facie caseagainst MTN. A staff in the agency described the case as “one of the most serious ever” and said the NCC was taking very seriously the investigation initiated by the Director of Prosecution in order “to safeguard musicians’ rights in the future.”
The source added that the criminal aspects of copyright laws exist all over the world to protect the creative property of their owners, and that the use of another’s artistic or intellectual property for the purpose of financial gain without permission is a breach that must not be encouraged. Under the law, anyone found guilty of criminal copyright infringement may be imprisoned, fined or both.
Previously, the law firm of Dr Ogaga Ifowodo of Felix, Igelige & Associates issued a press statement to elaborate on their notice of violation, in which they alleged that MTN Nigeria has for about three yearsflagrantly violated their client’s copyright and demanded N500 million as compensation. On September 3, NCC met with Baba 2010 and his lawyers in Abuja to establish the validity of their claim and decide whether or not to begin an investigation.
From every indication, this case promises to be a major turning point in copyright protection through the diligent enforcement of copyright law in Nigeria, especially where that concerns corporate giants like Nigeria’s biggest telecommunications company, and one of the biggest in Africa.