Legal Drama

AML Music Industry Lawsuit of the Year Goes To . . .

Ope BanwoIndustry heads and particularly trial lawyers like myself should be watching this case closely. This fight will only get nastier in 2013, unless some sort of resolution can be reached.

“The legal battle over copyright in the country has taken a dramatic turn following a class action suit brought to a Federal High Court in Lagos against the Copyright Society of Nigeria, COSON and other copyright work users.
In the suit: FHC/L/CS/1267/12, Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria, MCSN, sought the order of the court certifying the plaintiff’s claims as a class action, particularly as presented against the defendants in the suit appointing some of the defendants as acting for themselves and representing other right users in the class in respect of copyright in the works in its repertoire exploited by the defendants.

The court presided over by Honourable Justice M. B. Idris, on Tuesday, November 27, granted all the orders sought by MCSN, while adjourning the hearing of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction pending the final determination of the suit to December 10, 2012.

According to Ope Banwo, MCSN’s Director of Legal Affairs, this is the first class action lawsuit to be filed in Nigeria on copyright matters. He stated that MCSN is seeking to put an end once and for all to the issue of who has rights to collect, and be paid for exploitation of musical works in its repertoire of works in Nigeria, by suing COSON and all copyright users as represented by the defendants in the suit.

But in a swift reaction, the Copyright Society of Nigeria, COSON, said MCSN was doing so to create doubts in the minds of stakeholders in the music industry concerning their plans to distribute N100m royalties on December 11. According to their lawyer, Justin Ige, MCSN is trying to divert attention from the earlier suit against them. “‘This is a scam to divert attention from the criminal charges recently filed by the Federal Government against MCSN, Mayo Ayilaran, its henchman and five other officials of the gang for the illegal collection of copyright royalties in Nigeria. The arraignment of Mr. Ayilaran and the other indicted individuals is scheduled to take place before Honourable Justice Yinusa of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi Lagos on Tuesday, December 4”. . .” – National Mirror

“A Federal High Court presided over by Honourable Justice Mohammed Idris yesterday directed the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) and the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) to restrain themselves from taking any further action that would prejudice the hearing of the class action suit filed by MCSN against COSON and 6 other defendants.

In his ruling, Justice Idris stated that it is trite law that once a matter is before the court and parties are aware of the subject matter, parties should restrain themselves from doing anything on the subject matter as a way of showing respect not only for rule of law but also for the court and adjourned the matter to December 20, 2012. MCSN had last week filed a suit at the Federal High Court, seeking an injunction to stop COSON from going ahead to distribute the 100 million Naira royalties earned on use of copyright works to musicians. Lawyer to MCSN, Dr. Ope Banwo claimed in a statement that some of the money to be distributed was earned on works belonging to members of his society and that the suit will also determine who has right to collect royalties in behalf of musicians.

At the mention of the case, COSON’s Lawyer, Mr. Femi Fajolu, informed the court that he had filed a preliminary objection which he served on MCSN’s lawyer on Friday but was unable to serve on other defendants and asked for a short adjournment for MCSN and other parties to respond.

While replying to request for adjournment counsel to MCSN, Dr. Ope Banwo in company of Mr. D. A. Awosika and Mr. Olumide Ekisola and seven other lawyers urged the court to direct parties to maintain the status quo, stating in particular that COSON should not distribute the money which is the subject of the suit since it is trite law that once parties becomes aware of a pending suit challenging an action, parties must restrain themselves from carrying out that action until the matter is determined, quoting the Supreme Court decision in Ojukwu vs. Governor of Lagos State.

Counsel to COSON, Mr. Fajolu opposed the request stating that since the issue is monetary, his client can either refund the money or pay compensation if the judgement was unfavourable to his client, but his request was turned down by the learned judge who ruled that it is trite law that once a matter is before the court and parties are aware of the subject matter parties should restrain themselves from doing anything on the subject matter as a way of showing respect not only for rule of law but also for the court. Meanwhile, there are reports that COSON has vowed to go ahead to distribute the N100 million to musician irrespective of the ruling. . .” Starconnect


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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at

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