Appeal Court affirms N5.9b judgment against Multichoice Nigeria

The Court of Appeal, Lagos has affirmed the judgment of a Federal High Court, Lagosm which awarded about N5.959 billion in favour of the Musical  Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) against Multichoice Nigeria Limited as damages.

The trio of Justices Ogbuinya Obande Festus, Gabriel Omoniyi Kolawole and Balkisu Bello Aliyu dismissed the appeal filed by Multichoice Nigeria Limited on ground of being unmeritorious.

They noted that the appeal sought re-visitation and alteration of the judgment to reflect mathematical calculation of special damages against the appellant and that it was totally divorced from seeking a reversal of the entire judgment.

The trial justices agreed that the application of the respondent has merit and succeeds and varied the special damages awarded by the lower court to N5,450,152,125:00.

Justice M.B. Idris, now of the Court of Appeal, had in his judgment in suit number FHC/L/CS/1091/2011 delivered January 19, 2018, dismissed the suit filed by Multichoice Nigeria Limited and granted reliefs sought by MCSN.

The court agreed with the respondents that the claimant infringed/exploited musical works, which made up its repertoire, by communicating them for the public, upon a fee, through satellite and pay TV broadcasting, without licence from nor payment of royalties to it.

He upheld claims by MSCN that it was the owner, assignee and exclusive licensee of body of some musical works over the Nigerian territory.

The court held that the musical works were assigned to it by two international organisations, Performing Rights Society (PRS) and Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS), by dint of two reciprocal representation agreements.

Dissatisfied with the judgment of the court, Multichoice Nigeria Limited filed an appeal on January 1, 2018 and an amended notice of appeal dated September 10, 2018.

Multichoice sought an order of the appellate court setting aside the  judgment of the lower court delivered by Justice Idris on January 19, 2018.

The appellant also sought an order of the appellate court striking out and dismissing the respondent’s  counter claims with substantial costs.

The parties were represented by M.I.  Igbokwe (SAN) and Norrison Quakers (SAN) for the appellant and respondent respectively.

In the appeal number CA/L/188/2018, heard March 12, 2020, Multichoice distilled nine issues for determination of the appellate court  while the respondent, MCSN, distilled  six issues..

In their judgment, the three-man panel of the Appeal Court resolved the nine issues distilled by the appellant in favour of the respondent.

According to them, “the lower court judgment did not occasion a miscarriage of justice and that it carried out a meticulous and thorough analyses of the evidences viva voce and documentary and attached deserving probative weight for the respective evidence offered by the parties.”

The Appeal Court held that the lower court paid due fidelity to the law when it awarded the damages in the case.

The upper court also held: “ That the evidence of the respondent, based on their qualitative nature, preponderated over those of the appellant and that the respondent proved its case.”

They further held that the judgment of the lower court “is not antithetical to the pleadings and evidences presented before it by the feuding parties.

“The lower court did not import alien/foreign matters into the judgment. It utilised the evidences of parties presented before it as adumbrated above. The findings do not, in the least, smell of any change of perversity leveled against it by the appellant.”

They furthe held: “The fate of the appeal is obvious. It is bereft of any grain of merit and deserves the penalty of dismissal.”

Consequently, they dismissed the appeal and affirmed the decision of the lower court.

Addressing a virtual press conference on the judgment, MSCN Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mayowa Ayilaran said the judgment of the Court of Appeal affirmed MCSN’s proprietary right in musical works and sound recordings and it should be duly compensated for the exploitation of the works by users such as Multichoice Nigeria Limited.

Ayilaran stated that the judgment also affirmed the legal standing of MCSN and the right of action which it acquired long before the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) was established or the enactment of the Copyright Act 2004.

He said with the decisions of various courts, including “Suit Nos. FHC/L/CS/61/2007: Performing and Mechanical Rights Society of Nigeria Ltd/Gte (PMRS) vs. Nigerian Copyright Commission & Ors, delivered on 4th June 2007 and FHC/L/CS/1259/2017: Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd/Gte vs. Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd/Gte & Ors., delivered on February 13, 2018, NCC and MCSN now have the opportunity to create the desired harmonious relationships in the administration and enforcement of copyright in Nigeria by working to harmonise the collective management of copyright.

“MCSN with the support of the NCC shall take the first major step in realising this objective through a major project of deploying the desired technology in the administration of licensing, tracking, monitoring, collection and distribution of royalties in the coming few days”, he said.


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