Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the nation’s biggest copyright collective management organization, has gone to the Federal High Court to seek damages of eight billion naira from the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) for “the undemocratic, unlawful and unconstitutional ‘suspension’ of the approval and operating licence of the Plaintiff” and another two billion naira “for the significant loss of Reputation and Goodwill suffered by the Plaintiff and arising from the massive publicity sustained by the NCC against COSON following the undemocratic, unlawful and unconstitutional ‘suspension’ of the approval and operating licence of the Plaintiff and the unlawful directive that the bank accounts of the Plaintiff be frozen.”
In its 63 paragraph Statement of Claim in suit No FHC/L/CS/425/2020 filed by renowned Lagos lawyer, Mr. James Ononiwu of Whitedove Solicitors, COSON pleads that It is a fact that the Copyright Act in Section 39 (2) gives the Defendant the power to approve collecting societies but nowhere under the law is the NCC given the power to suspend, revoke or in any way restrict the approval given to a collecting society or embark on an audit of a collecting society or direct the freeze/restriction of the bank accounts of a collecting society without an order of court.
COSON which is Africa’s fastest growing CMO with thousands of members across Nigeria, also pleads that while the Copyright Collective Management Organization Regulations (2007), made by the NCC, states that it has been made in exercise of the powers conferred on the NCC by section 39 (7) of the Copyright Act, the regulations are over reaching of the law because nowhere in Section 39 of the Copyright Act or any other law is the commission given the power to suspend, revoke or in any way restrict the approval given to a collecting society or embark on an audit of a collecting society or direct the freeze/restriction of the bank accounts of a collecting society without an order of court.
COSON said that the NCC has become a MONSTER, deploying the wide powers it has unlawfully assumed to decimate the stakeholders it was set up to protect and that in its actions, the commission has been the law maker, the accuser, the judge and the jury in its own case without COSON being offered any opportunity for fair hearing.
COSON has therefore asked the Federal high Court to declare that the provisions in the Copyright (Collective Management Organizations) Regulations 2007, made by the NCC, by which the NCC has assumed the power to unilaterally suspend or revoke the licence of an approved Collecting Society or to require an approved collecting society to apply to the NCC to renew its licence are undemocratic, unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void.
Similarly, COSON which has reciprocal representation agreements with about 150 collective management organizations in every continent around the world has asked the Federal High Court to declare that the provision in the Copyright (Collective Management Organizations) Regulations 2007 by which the NCC has assumed the power to order the audit of a Copyright Collective Management Organization without the authorization of the society’s Annual General Meeting and without a court order is undemocratic, unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void. Also requested is a declaration that the directive by the NCC without an order of court that the bank accounts of COSON be frozen, is ultra vires the powers of the NCC, illegal, unlawful, null and void.
Furthermore, COSON is seeking a perpetual injunction restraining the commission, its officers, agents, servants or privies from relying on the provisions of the Copyright Collective Management Organizations Regulations 2007 to take any steps purporting to revoke the operating licence/ approval of COSON or in any way or manner disturbing/continuing to disturb or preventing/continuing to prevent COSON from lawfully enforcing the constitutional rights of its members, affiliates, assignees and reciprocal representation partners or interfering/continuing to interfere with the internal management, operations, funds, audits or bank accounts of the Plaintiff or disturbing/continuing to disturb or preventing/continuing to prevent COSON, its members, affiliates, assignees and reciprocal representation partners from earning income and sustaining themselves with their Intellectual Property, without an order of court.
It will be recalled that at a massively attended world press conference held at COSON House, Ikeja days before the suit was filed, COSON called for the immediate resignation of Mr. John Asein, the Director-General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission who is alleged to be immersed in rabid corruption. At the Press Conference addressed by the CMOs chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji, he said, “the Nigerian Copyright Commission has brought shame to the Nigerian nation. We therefore on this 10th day of March 2020 call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to call the Nigerian Copyright Commission to order. We demand of the Buhari Administration to order the Nigerian Copyright Commission to publish a bold and unreserved apology to the thousands of members of COSON, the entire Nigerian creative community and the international copyright family for the terrible misuse and abuse of power and to make appropriate restitution to COSON”