The Nigerian Copyright Act has long provided for civil enforcement against copyright infringement. However, with a slow-moving justice system, few copyright trained attorneys and a government often noted for its levels of corruption, civil enforcement seemed like a dream more than a reality. That changed this month.
Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) successfully sued telecommunications provider Zain for copyright infringement, to the tune of 100 million Naira. (That’s about US$674,000 or £411,000.) Infringed works were used in advertisements and sold as ringtones. Nigeria’s Vanguard outlines the history of the case, from refusals to pay for licenses, through settlement attempts and to the court case.
One important aspect of this case is that the infringed songs included some owned by foreign rightholders. MCSN is responsible for collecting for these songs through its agreements with other collecting societies, such as PRS in the UK and ASCAP in the US. The fact that MCSN was able to obtain a successful judgment for infringement of foreign-owned songs is good news for international collecting societies, as well as good news for Nigeria.