27 August 2003

Nigeria: Music Rights Society Accuses MTN of Copyright Infringement

Lagos — Performing and Mechanical Rights Society [PMRS] is demanding the sum of N100 million from MTN Limited for the illegal adaptation and use of the musical works of various Nigerian artistes, which the GSM operator offered to its subscribers as ring tones.

Speaking at a press briefing , the Chairman, Board of Directors of PMRS, Mr Tony Okoroji said last year, it's organisation wrote to MTN drawing its attention to the infringement of copyright in the musical works it had adapted, reproduced and offered for a fee to its subscribers as ring tones. He said that any musical works are intellectual property, which have it's owners, emphasising that the law is clear that no one is allowed to exploit these works without the licence of the copyright owner or his representative.

"We had sought to resolve this matter with the operators of MTN in a very amicable and professional manner. To our amazement, rather than address the issue, MTN has gone ahead without appropriate authorisation, to expand the repertoire of music it offers its subscribers." Okoroji asserted that MTN advertised these works very widely in the media and issued them to hundreds of thousands of its customers from whom it had collected hundreds of millions of Naira.

Evangelist Ebenezer Obey, chairman of the board of the Nigerian Copyright Commis-sion, who is a member of PMRS has also expressed astonishment at how MTN offered several of his musical works to the public to download, at the cost of N100 a download. Obey was charged N100 by MTN for downloading his own award- winning song, Board Members, on which MTN never sought or received his permission to trade with.

Okoroji said that despite efforts made by PMRS to reach a logical conclusion with the GSM operator, it still went ahead with it's copyright infringement as if it was above the law, whereas N12billion had been paid in the United States for the right to use music as ring tones.

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