Court Orders Multichoice Nigeria to pay MCSC N5.4bn for Copyright Infringement
The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal has ordered Multichoice Nigeria to pay N5.4 billion as damages to the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria for copyright infringement.
In a unanimous judgement delivered on May 29, the court upheld the decision of the federal high court that the MCSN was the exclusive owner of the body of some musical works over the Nigerian territory.
Festus Ogbuinya, who read the lead judgment and the two other judges – Gabriel Kolawole and Bilikisu Aliyu who agreed with him – resolved seven of the nine issues for determination in favour of MCSN.
“The judgment of the lower court, which is submissive to comprehension, is not antithetical to the pleadings and evidence presented before it by the feuding parties,” said Mr Ogbuinya.
“It utilised the evidence the parties presented before it as adumbrated above. The finding does not, in the least, smell of any charge of perversity levelled against it by the appellant.”
The judge said Multichoice Nigeria was “stingy” in illustrating how it was afflicted with a miscarriage of justice.
“From the concrete evidence, the reasonable probability to earn a favourable result in its favour was, with respect, an echo of mirage.
“On the whole, having resolved the live issues one, three, four, five, seven, eight (partly), and nine against the appellant, the fate of the appeal is obvious. It is bereft of any grain of merit and deserves the penalty of dismissal. Consequently, I dismiss the appeal.”
Multichoice Nigeria had dragged the MCSN to court in 2011 after the music body wrote to it demanding N4.1 billion as cumulative copyright and royalties for musical contents used by the company in its programmes.
According to the company, it is not obliged to pay to MCSN royalties for material used in programming on DSTV because the body is not licensed by the Nigerian Copyright Commission.
But the MCSN argued that the musical works in question were assigned to it by two international organisations, Performing Rights Society and Mechanical Copyright Protection Society.
In his January 19, 2018 judgment, Justice Idris not only dismissed Multichoice’s suit against the MCSN, he also went on to grant MCSN’s counter-claim of N5.4bn against Multichoice.
Displeased, Multichoice headed for the Court of Appeal, contending that Justice Idris miscarried and perverted justice in the case.
But the Court of Appeal, in Justice Ogbuinya’s lead judgment, disagreed with Multichoice and upheld the judgment of Justice Idris, who is now a Court of Appeal Justice.
Justice Ogbuinya held, “The finding (of the lower court) does not, in the least, smell of any charge of perversity levelled against it by the appellant. By the same token, the judgment did not occasion a miscarriage of justice.
“I, therefore, acquit the well-honed judgment of the lower court of the unfounded allegation of improper and perfunctory evaluation of evidence.
“The appeal is bereft of any grain of merit and deserves the penalty of dismissal. Consequently, I dismiss the appeal. I affirm the decision of the lower court delivered on 19th January, 2018.”