Legal Drama

COSON SUES Calabar Christmas Festival Organizers for 5 Billion Naira Over Copyright Infringement

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I am particularly intrigued with this lawsuit because of the twist at the end about the Calabar Festival organizers also infringing on the intellectual property works of American (musicians) and other foreign acts. Interesting, the same Cross River state i.e Calabar Festival organizers bring a lot of foreign acts and pay them astronomical amounts each December to perform in Nigeria. This ought to be interesting.

-Uduak

Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON)  has filed a Five Billion Naira suit at the Federal High Court, against the Cross River State Carnival Commission, the Governor of Cross River State and the Attorney General of the state seeking among other things an injunction restraining the Defendants, their agents, privies or servants from the unauthorized copying, communication to the public, broadcast and infringement of the copyright in the musical works and sound recordings belonging to the members, affiliates, assignors and licensors of COSON.

In the Suit No FHC/L/CS/1544/13 with a 41 paragraph Statement of Claim filed on behalf of COSON by renowned intellectual property lawyer, Mr. Justin Ige, COSON is claiming that  among the events organized in December every year by the Cross River Carnival Commission on behalf of the Cross River State government is the four day ‘Calabar Carnival’ widely known as Africa’s biggest street party during which over fifty trailer loads of massive loud speakers, without any licence or authorization, communicate various musical works and sound recordings belonging to the members, affiliates, assignors and licensors of the Plaintiff, to millions of people lined up on several streets of Calabar and inside UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar, which musical works and sound recordings, without any licence or authorization, are broadcast or caused to be broadcast by the Defendants to hundreds of millions of people in Lagos , all over Nigeria and around the world.

In the Statement of Claim, COSON states that it has repeatedly, through several letters, reminders and telephone calls , requested the Defendants to obtain appropriate licences and pay requisite royalties for the musical works and sound recordings belonging to the members, affiliates, assignors and licensors of COSON communicated to the public, broadcast or caused to be broadcast by the Defendants and reproduced during and consequent upon the massive entertainment events held in the name of Calabar Carnival and Calabar Festival organized by the agencies the Cross River State government, to no avail.

The statement further states that rather than obtain the required licences and pay proper royalties for the intellectual property belonging to the Plaintiff’s members, affiliates, assignors and licensors,  the Defendants have shown complete contempt for the lawful demand of the Plaintiff and that the Defendants have even begun massive advertising for another month long festival/carnival to be held from November 30, 2013 during which if unchecked the Defendants will continue with the unauthorized communication to the public, broadcasting, and copying and infringement of the copyright in the musical works and sound recordings of the members, affiliates, assignors and licensors of the Plaintiff.

COSON also stated that apart from the significant amount of Nigerian copyright owners whose rights are infringed during the festival and carnival, a substantial amount of the royalties that ought to be due from the licensing of the musical works and sound recordings, belong to various foreign nationals represented by COSON and that as a result of the various Intellectual Property conventions entered into by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, failure to respect the intellectual property rights of the relevant foreign nationals may result in diplomatic and economic sanctions against Nigeria.

Commenting on the development, COSON General Manager, Mr. Chinedu Chukwuji said, ‘We have to do our job but this is unfortunate. I know how much we have tried to avoid this matter getting to this point. I know how hard we have tried to engage the officials of the Cross River State Government to find an amicable answer. I know the personal efforts made by our Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji who has several friends within the Cross River State government apparatus. The problem is that in this day and age, many supposedly educated Nigerians still do not take intellectual property matters seriously. They think that people’s intellectual property can be freely used anyhow and anywhere they want until the matter results into a big court action costing millions.  I hope that others learn from this. This matter could easily have been resolved with the Cross River State Government. Unfortunately, you can take a horse to the river but you can’t force it to drink.’

The Calabar Festival

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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 https://msuduak.com.

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