The Nigerian Copyright Commission has launched a criminal investigation into an allegation by a veteran artiste, Veno Marioghae Mbanefo that a telecommunications company, Airtel Network Limited used her song, ‘Nigeria Go Survive’ to promote its TV app and ‘The Voice Nigeria’, without her permission.
Mbanefo, in a letter, addressed to the company by her lawyers asked the telecoms company to “cease and desist forthwith from further infringing on the copyright of our Client to the aforementioned musical work”.
It also asked Airtel to “pay to our Client the sum of N50, 000,000 (Fifty Million Naira) for the unauthorised commercial and also derogatory use of her musical work”.
Reacting in a letter signed by Joachim Okere and Adebayo Ajayi, the head of legal services and lead, Litigation and Dispute Management respectively, Airtel Nigeria denied the claims which it described as ‘false and defamatory’.
The telecoms company said it had not promoted its TV App with Mbanefo’s musical work.
The company further demanded a letter of retraction/apology from Mbanefo within seven days from the receipt of this letter or risk civil/criminal legal actions instituted against her.
However, the artiste has insisted on the copyright infringement suit and her demand of N50 million compensation.
SaharaReporters learnt on Thursday that the Nigerian Copyright Commission had commenced an investigation into the claim.
“NCC has commenced criminal investigation now. Veno Marioghae Mbanefo has written her statement today. Criminal investigation has commenced against Airtel,” a source told SaharaReporters on Thursday.
A letter from Mbanefo’s lawyers addressed to the Director-General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), urged the Commission to invoke its investigative and prosecutorial powers under the Nigerian Copyright Act to protect its client and ensure that violators of her copyright are duly sanctioned accordingly.
The letter signed by Felix Igelige reads, “We are solicitors to Veno Marioghae Mbanefo (our Client), a musician and entertainer residing in Lagos and we write this letter on her behalf.
“Our Client is the author and copyright owner of the musical work entitled “Nigeria Go Survive” being used by Airtel Network Limited (Airtel) to promote their TV app, “The Voice Nigeria” and other of their products.
“As you are aware, our Client has a number of exclusive rights defined by the Copyright Act, Cap 28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
“These include the right to reproduce the works, and to publish and communicate same to the public (including by way of sale and broadcast, both conventionally and online or via the Internet).
“It is an infringement of copyright to do any of these and other protected acts in relation to the whole or a substantial part of a copyright work, or to authorize anyone to do such an act or acts on your behalf, without the permission or licence of the copyright owner.
“Our Client’s attention has been drawn to the use, without permission or licence, of her aforementioned musical work by Airtel Network Limited (Airtel) for telemarketing.
“Specifically, Airtel Network Limited (Airtel) has appropriated the said work to promote their TV app, “The Voice Nigeria” and other of their products without obtaining our Client’s prior permission or licence before engaging repeatedly in this act or acts.
“Their conduct is a flagrant and deliberate infringement of our client’s copyright. It also amounts to stealing and wilful deprivation with the intent to unjustly enrich their company and deny our Client of the legitimate fruits of her labour, thereby inflicting hardship on our client.
“By this letter, our Client requests that you invoke the investigative and prosecutorial powers of the Commission under the Nigerian Copyright Act to protect her copyright and ensure that violators of her copyright are duly sanctioned accordingly.
“Our Client has all the necessary and relevant evidence that will aid the investigation of this matter. And she is willing and ready to make them available for use in the course of the investigation.
Attached is a flash drive containing some of the promo with her musical work been used by Airtel Network Limited for telemarketing.”