October 19, 2016 — Musician Pupayannis (the Plaintiff) has filed Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/799/2016 at the Federal High Court in Abuja against MTN Nigeria Communications Limited and others for Copyright Infringement of his song “Love is Everything”. According to the Statement of Claim in the suit filed on October 12, 2016, the Plaintiff is alleging that MTN has been collecting money for caller tunes for his song and has not compensated him for its use.
“17. Sometime in January 2016, Plaintiff discovered that his song ‘Love is Everything’ (audio) had been reproduced and stored electronically by the 1st Defendant who was selling it via the internet, that is through 1st Defendant’s website (www.mtnonline.com), to existing and potential customers as a ring tone or caller tune.
18. Plaintiff’s song ‘Love is Everything’ was/is alternately coded by the 1st Defendant as numbers 081755 and 1018755 and offered for sale on their website without his consent and/or permission. Plaintiff shall rely on the screen shot of the 1st Defendant’s website showing the song as it was (still is) offered for sale at the trial of the suit.
19. …upon sending any of the aforementioned codes to the designated purchase number 4100, the corresponding song would be sold to a customer or subscriber for N50 by the 1st Defendant for one month and N20 for one week, with the option of a monthly or weekly renewal charge of N50 and N20 respectively.”
The Statement of Claim names Ferdi Moolman, the CEO of MTN, record company ‘No Where to Run Entertainment Ltd.’, and its CEO, Emmanuel Abanah, as Defendants.
It appears there was a pre-existing relationship and contract between the record company and the Plaintiff and a video of the song which is the subject of this suit was later produced and co-sponsored by the record company. However, the Plaintiff alleges that he never assigned the audio or the copyright in them to the record company as the song was produced and financed prior to his contractual relationship with the record company.
“…’Love is Everything (audio), was mixed and mastered at…the expense of the Plaintiff without any input financially or otherwise from the 3rd and 4th Defendants. The Plaintiff shall rely on the receipt issued to him dated July 18, 2013 by Gun-Kicks Studio for the recording and production of the song…
There was a formal agreement between Plaintiff and the 3rd Defendant.
Plaintiff did not assign his copyright to the song …nor authorize anybody else..to act on his behalf in matters relating to assignment of his copyright…
The original master tape of the song ‘Love is Everything (audio) is still in the possession of the Plaintiff as its owner and there was never a time he surrendered it to the…Defendants.”
The Plaintiff is seeking a declaration that the recording contract entered with the record company did not give copyright to his past works including ‘Love is Everything’ and that the sale or offer for a fee of the Plaintiff’s song to MTN subscribers or customers without his consent constitutes copyright infringement. The Plaintiff has asked the court to award the sum of N200,000,000 as general damages and N100,000,000 as aggravated and punitive damages.
The case is currently pending.