An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Thursday awarded Liberty Williams, a Nigerian musician, N20 million damages against MTN and others over copyright infringement.
The musician popularly known as Pupayannis had approached the court seeking N200 million general damages and N100 million aggravated and punitive damages for the use of his song without his consent.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu awarded the N20 million damages against MTN and two others after finding that the defendants flagrantly violated the musician’s copyright.
- In 2017, the musician filed the lawsuit against MTN and its then Chief Executive Officer, Ferdi Moolman, Nowhere to Run Entertainment Ltd and Emmanuel Abanah seeking the court to declare that MTN’s sale of his song as caller ring back tune without his consent constituted an infringement on his copyright.
- According to Mr. William, MTN had collaborated with Nowhere to Run Entertainment Company to offer his song “Love is Everything” to its millions of subscribers as a ringtone and caller tune without his consent.
- He told the court that in July 2013, he had composed the song and financed its production three months before he entered into an agreement with Nowhere to Run Entertainment Ltd.
- He argued that he never surrendered the master tape and the rights of the song to the entertainment company and its chief executive or to anyone else, natural or corporate.
- Consequently, he prayed the court to award N200million as general damages and N100million as aggravated and punitive damages in his favour.
How the court ruled
Ruling on the matter, Justice Ojukwu said she found that the defendants flagrantly violated the plaintiff’s copyright.
- She, therefore, restrained the defendants, their agents, privies or assigns from further infringing the plaintiff’s copyright to the song.
- She particularly ordered MTN to remove the song from its call ring back tune platform. She also ordered the telco company to render an account, within three months, of its sale of the plaintiff’s song as a caller ring back tune.
- She said the process must be in conjunction with the National Communications Commission and the account reported to the court.
- Consequently, she held that MTN’s action constituted an infringement of the plaintiff’s copyright, adding that the defendant had no right to use the plaintiff’s work without the requisite permission.
- She awarded N20 million damages against the defendants over copyright infringement.