October 27, 2016, Lagos, Nigeria — On October 21, the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos dismissed an appeal filed by Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria LTD/GTE (MCSN) in Appeal No: CA/L/575/2009, MCSN v. Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC).
MCSN filed the appeal following the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos. The Federal High Court presided over by Honourable Justice I. M. Sani had held that provisions of the Copyright Act are not unconstitutional and do not violate the fundamental right of MCSN.
Both MCSN and the NCC have been involved a series of lawsuit filed by MCSN following the refusal of the NCC to approve MCSN as a collecting society, in Nigeria. In some of the suits, MCSN claimed that their activities and duties as a collecting society were not subject to approval from the Commission. In other cases, MCSN sought orders of court to compel the Commission to approve them as a collecting society.
In 2008, MCSN (as the Applicant) instituted a suit against the NCC (the Respondent) in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/478/2008, MCSN v. NCC, at the Federal High Court in Lagos. MCSN claimed the following relieves:
A declaration that Section 17 and Section 39 of the Copyright Act 2004 are unconstitutional in so far as they circumscribe the Applicant’s Fundamental right as guaranteed under Section 40 and Section 44 of the Constitution.
A declaration that the Applicant has right as owners, assignee and exclusive licensee of various authors and entitled to exploit and enjoy her properties in the works and that these rights ought not to be abrogated disturbed or frustrated except by just laws which offers just compensation and are in accord with section 44 of the constitution.
A declaration that Section 17 and Section 39 (formerly Sections 15A and 32B) of the Copyright Act 2004 are unconstitutional null and void in so far as they seek to abrogate rights of property that have been acquired or have accrued before the promulgation of the said section of the Copyright Act.
A declaration that the Applicant does not require a license from the Respondent in order to carry on their business in the exploitation of rights validly and legitimately acquired by the Applicant
A declaration that Section 17 and Section 39 of the Copyright Act 2004 are contrary to the provision of Articles 10 and 14 of the African Charter on Human and People Right Ratification and Enforcement Act Cap A9 Laws of the Federation 2004 made enforceable by Section 12(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Republic of Nigeria 1999.
On April 3, 2009, Justice I.M. Sani of the Federal High Court in Lagos delivered the judgment. The Honourable Justice stated: ‘I am of the view that the fundamental question to be asked is whether the provision of Sections 17 and 39 of the copyright Act 2004 circumscribe the Applicant’s fundamental right as guaranteed under Section 40 and Section 44 of the Constitution’. The court held that the requirement on MCSN to obtain a license before operating does not amount to compulsory acquisition of its property. The court delivered judgment in favour of Nigerian Copyright Commission and dismissed the case.
It was following the above decision that MCSN filed this present appeal.
In a unanimous judgment of the Court of Appeal Lagos delivered on October 21, 2016, the Court dismissed the appeal. In the lead judgment delivered by Anyanwu J.C.A, the court held that provisions of the Copyright Act do not violate any constitutional rights reserved for MCSN. The court dismissed the appeal and awarded a cost of N50,000 in favour of NCC.
The implication of this decision is that MCSN is required to obtain approval the from Nigerian Copyright Commission before carrying out the functions of a collecting society.