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Copyright Infringement: Musician wants charge against MTN dropped, NCC says no

A Federal High Court, Abuja, has fixed March 3 to decide whether it would try MTN Nigeria and its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ferdi Moolman, for copyright infringement.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba fixed the date at the Thursday hearing in a charge filed against MTN and Moolman over alleged infringement of copies of the musical works of an Abuja-based musician, Dovie Omenuwoma-Eniwo (a.k.a. Baba 2010).

The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), in 2015, filed the two-count-charge against MTN and Moolman, sequel to a petition filed by Baba 2010.

However, following a report of settlement between MTN and Baba 2010 over the infringement, their lawyers, Mena Ajakpoui and Rockson Igelige, had respectively asked for the withdrawal of the charge by NCC.

Lawyer to NCC and the commission’s Director of Prosecution, Abdul-Ter Kohol, however said that the crime had been committed and the restitution provided by the alleged offenders (MTN and Moolman) was not a barrier to their prosecution.

The court therefore adjourned to decide whether or not the compensation paid to Baba 2010 by the accused persons over the alleged infringement was adequate to stop NCC from prosecuting MTN and Mr. Moolman.

NAN reports that at the hearing of the case, Mr. Igelige moved an application seeking the court order permitting his client (Baba 2010) to withdraw his complaint against the accused persons (MTN and Moolman).

He contended that he filed a civil suit against MTN in another Federal High Court upon which his client amicably and satisfactorily settled with MTN.

He said the NCC did not inform his client before going ahead to file the criminal charge against MTN and its CEO.
Mr. Igelige also argued that he did not make any complaint against Mr. Moolman, the second accused person in the petition written to NCC.

He argued that with the combined reading of sections 17, 355 (1) and 494 (1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, his client had the right to withdraw his complaint which would in turn terminate the trial.
Mr. Kohol opposed the application contending that “it is misconceived, frivolous and not known to law’’.

He said besides the fact that the applicant did not seek the leave of court before filing the application the statutory parties to criminal trial are the prosecution (NCC) and the accused (MTN and Moolman).

The lawyer argued that the applicant, like any other informant of a prosecuting agency, could not withdraw a criminal charge he did not file in court.

Mr. Kohol said that section 24 of the NCC establishment Act permits for both criminal and civil actions to be filed and heard simultaneously in copyright infringement cases.

He therefore urged the court to hold that MTN and Moolman had already committed the crime and the restitution made to Baba 2010 cannot assuage their prosecution.


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