An Abuja- based musician, Omenuwoma Okson Dovie, aka Baba 2010, is set to drag MTN Nigeria to court for infringing on his copyright in four musical works, namely “Gentleman “Ometena”, “Twisted” and “Unity Song.”
Dovie alleged that MTN turned the four songs into caller tunes/ring tones, selling them to its subscribers without his permission or license for about three years.
The songs are contained in the album titled “Twisted”, which the artiste released in 2005.
In a letter to MTN on Dovie’s behalf, Rockson Igelige of Felix, Igelige and Associates, demanded the payment of 500 million naira compensation “for the unauthorized and derogatory use of the music works”.
The lawyer, among other demands, also gave MTN a 14-day ultimatum to respond to the allegations.
“Our client’s attention has been drawn to your use, without permission or licence, of his aforementioned musical works,” the letter reads. “Specifically, you have appropriated the works as your caller tunes or ring tones and have been selling them to your subscribers in the manner described above.”
Mr. Igelige also said MTN’s conduct, by not obtaining his client’s permission before engaging repeatedly in the acts, was a flagrant and deliberate infringement of his copyright.
“It also amounts to stealing and willful deprivation with the intent to unjustly enrich itself by denying copyright owner Baba 2010 the legitimate fruits of his labour, thereby inflicting hardship on him,” Mr. Igelige said.
However, in a letter signed by Obiageli Maduka and Olasubomi Osoba, the company’s Commercial Legal Advisers, MTN acknowledged receipt of Mr. Igelige’s letter, though they made the correspondence without prejudice.
They said they had noted the claims and were conducting further investigation into matter.
They however requested that Mr. Igelige delay further actions on the matter to enable them revert to him on their findings. They also said they would respond to him as soon as possible.
Still, Mr. Igelige told this reporter that he never received the acknowledgement letter because it was sent to a wrong address. His attention was drawn to it by the Nigeria Copyright Commission, Abuja, because MTN copied it too.
“But we have reached out to them on the issue and Mrs. Obiageli Maduka, the Commercial Legal Adviser, promised sending our firm another letter through email,” Mr. Igelige said.
However, Felix, Igelige and Associates has started pushing the Nigeria Copyright Commission to bring criminal charges against MTN, as it intends to pursue civil and criminal actions against the company from its own end.
Asked whether he believed MTN might opt for an amicable settlement of the issue, Mr. Igelige said his team was not against amicable settlement, but that he believed MTN was being evasive in its response.
“They are being tactical and legalistic in their answer by making their correspondent without prejudice. The implication is that whatever they say cannot be used against them in the court of law.
“We have no other options other than following what the copyright acts say. We shall follow the due process of the law, and also talk to the press. It is clear we are pursuing criminal charge and civil action against MTN,” Mr. said.