There is big jubilation at COSON House as the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar this Monday, June 26, 2023, affirmed the 2018 judgment of the Federal High Court awarding the sum of N500,000,000.00 (Five Hundred Million Naira) to Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Nigeria’s biggest copyright collective management organization. The award is for copyright infringement at the Calabar Carnival and Festival.
COSON which represents thousands of owners of copyright in musical works and sound recordings in Nigeria and also represents the music repertoire of several collective management organizations across the world, in 2014 instituted Suit No: FHC/C/CA/15/2014 against the Cross River State Government and the Cross River State Carnival Commission for copyright infringement in their unlicensed copying, communication to the public and broadcast of the musical works and sound recordings belonging to the members, affiliates, assignors and licensors of COSON at the yearly Calabar Carnival and Festival.
The Federal High Court, Calabar on April 30, 2018, entered judgment in favour of COSON for the sum of N500,000,000.00 (Five Hundred Million Naira). The Court also ordered a perpetual injunction restraining the deployment of musical works in the COSON repertoire, at the Calabar Carnival, without valid authorization.
The Cross River State Government and the Carnival Commission which lost to COSON at the Federal High Court thereafter appealed the judgment, an appeal which they have also lost with the affirmation of the Federal High Court decision by the Court of Appeal.
Reacting to the Court of Appeal judgment, COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji who travelled to Calabar several times because of the case and stood as witness to COSON during the trial, thanked the panel of justices of the Court of Appeal for affirming the intellectual property rights of creative people in Nigeria and stating it loudly that in Nigeria, no one is above the law, not even state governments.
Said Okoroji, “it took us 9 solid years of stringent legal battle to win this historic victory for Nigerian musicians and the entire Nigerian creative family. It is our legacy for the coming generation.
“Our unshaking commitment and resilience are at the heart of this important victory. The monetary award is important but more important is the precedent set by the courts. It might seem expensive to obtain a licence to publicly deploy musical works, but it is far more expensive not to get such a licence”.
A very happy COSON General Manager, Mrs. Bernice Eriemeghe Ashibuogwu also reacted, saying, “This is another warning to all those who think that COSON will tire or give up in the pursuit of the rights of our members. No! … No!! We will steadfastly follow up each case for as long as it takes to obtain victory for our members. Our consistent court victories should be a real warning to all that it is very dangerous to bet against COSON”.