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Copyright infringement: MTN Nigeria asks court to strike out NCC’s suit for being defective

MTN Nigeria Communications Limited has asked the Federal High Court, Abuja, to strike out the alleged copyright infringement case instituted against it by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) for allegedly being defective.

The case, marked FHC/ABJ/CR/111/2024, was filed by the NCC against MTN Nigeria Communications Limited; Karl Toriola, Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria; Nkeakam Abhulimen; Fun Mobile Limited; and Yahaya Maibe.

The NCC alleged that MTN and others used several soundtracks as callback ringtones without the consent and authorization of the original owners.

A staff member of the NCC, Samuel Y. Udowo, also deposed before the court that the Commission investigated a complaint of criminal copyright infringement against the defendants arising from acts that include the usage of the musical works/sound recordings of Maleke Idowu Moye as Caller Ring Back Tunes without his consent and authorization.

He added that the investigation revealed that the defendants had indeed committed some copyright offenses.

Count one of NCC’s charge sheet reads,

“That you, (1) MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd., (2) Karl Olutokun Tariola “m”, (3) Nkeakam Abhulimen “f” all of MTN Plaza, Falomo Round About, Ikoyi, Lagos and (4) Fun Mobile Limited, (5) Yahaya Maibe “m” both of No. B24 NICON Town, Lekki, Lagos sometime between the period of 2010 to 2017, within the Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, did sell, exposed and/or offered for sale for the purposes of trade or business, infringing copies of the whole or substantial parts of the musical works/sound recordings which include 911, Minimini-wanawana, Stop racism, Ewole, 911 instrumental, Radio, waist, and No bother; by using them as Caller Ring Back Tunes, without the consent authorisation of Maleke Idowu Moye in whom copyright subsists and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 20 (2) (a) of the Copyright Act, Cap. C28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”

But MTN, in its motion on notice seen by Naijaonpoint on Monday, asked the court to decline jurisdiction on the matter.

MTN’s lawyer, Obafemi Agaba, contended that the case should be struck out because the signature on the charge sheet cannot be traced or ascribed to any legal practitioner authorized to practice law in Nigeria contrary to the clear statement of the law as enunciated by the Supreme Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He also maintained that “the 1st Defendant/Applicant (“Applicant”) is not a juristic person, and thereby robs this Honourable Court the requisite jurisdiction to entertain any proceedings with respect to the Applicant.”

MTN’s relief read,

“An order striking out Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/111/2024-Nigerian Copyright Commission v. MTN Nigeria Communications Limited & Ors. for being incurably defective and incapable of activating the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court.”

Today was fixed for the arraignment of the defendants but most of them did not show up.

Agaba then drew the attention of the court to his motion on notice challenging the court’s jurisdiction.

But the court confirmed that the motion was not yet on the court’s file.

In view of the absence of the other defendants, Justice Ekwo adjourned to 14 May for the defendants to take their pleas.

In view of the absence of the other defendants, Justice Ekwo adjourned to 14 May for the defendants to take their pleas.