A case involving the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) and Oriental Hotel has been brought to the Federal High Court, Lagos.
The case, a 500 million naira copyright infringement action, is to be tried by Justice Babs O. Kuewumi, is against the hotel and its General Manager, Philip Speilhage.
Tony Okoroji, chairman of the COSON board, spoke during a cross examination in court on 24 February, saying Oriental Hotel’s provision of venue for entertainment events enables copyright infringement. The hotel, he said, has to ensure music played within its premises is legal.
For allegedly neglecting this responsibility, COSON, according to its website, is asking for the "award of more than five hundred million naira ($1.6 million) in unpaid royalties and damages for the unauthorized copying, communication to the public, permission to perform in public and infringement of the copyright in the musical works and sound recordings belonging to COSON members, affiliates and assignors.”
The case between COSON and Oriental Hotel has dragged for some time. In 2014, Okoroji urged a boycott of the hotel by artists, and in 2015, he issued a direct statement regarding Speilhage's establishment. “Contrary to the belief in some quarters, Nigeria is not a lawless country,” he said Okoroji. "Our laws work. We have gone to court to find out if Lagos Oriental Hotel is special and above Nigerian law. As of today, several top hotels doing business across Nigeria are obeying the law, have got authorization for the music they deploy and are paying royalties for the deployment of the music. Such hotels include Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island.”
For his part, the General Manager of COSON, Chinedu Chukwuji, spoken about the commencement of the trial. “We have always been one to deliver on our words at COSON," he said. "Last year we lunched ‘Operation No Hiding Place’ and promised all music users who have continued to show disdain for the rights of our members and affiliates that they are in for a rough ride.
"We are approved by the government to revolutionize the copyright culture in Nigeria for the good of the nation. We will continue to do that without any apologies. We are on course and we are not looking back.”