MTN Nigeria faces $312.9 million copyright infringement lawsuit

The Nigerian office of Africa’s largest telecommunication company, MTN Nigeria Limited is in the news again for the wrong reason. The company has been slammed with a N112.5 billion ($312.9 million) lawsuit over copyright infringement. A content producer who specialises in events management, production, promotion and marketing with a focus on comedy, Femi Edwards alleges the wrongful use of his brand Comedy+ by MTN. He is demanding that the telco company should account for the money it generated using the brand name. This was made known in an application filed to a Federal High Court in Lagos.

According to reports, Edwards said Comedy+ was passed off by MTN to its 59 million subscribers, while it made N112.5 billion from its subscription price list at an estimated rate of N250 per month and 50 million subscribers in nine months from March to December 2017.

Edwards alleges that in 2009, it started a comedy platform which it named KomicRELOADED. But in 2010 it rebranded to Comedy+ and has been using it since then. However, in 2017 MTN launched a digital video on demand platform called MTN Comedy+ which aggregates content in form of skits, short videos and series which are streamed by its mobile users.

The complainant said that in September 2017, his lawyer Chuks Nwachukwu wrote to MTN through complaining about the issue and MTN replied on September 18, 2017, promising to look into it. After waiting for some weeks without a response, the complainant wrote again to the firm and MTN responded on October 23, 2017, denying any liability, but not its use of the brand name. However, in the suit filed by his counsel, Chuks Nwachukwu, to the Federal High Court in Lagos, he said that he is seeking an order restraining MTN or its agents from producing, promoting or marketing under Comedy+ any comedy related to or other entertainment shows or content not produced, promoted or marketed by the plaintiff or with his collaboration.

This is not the first time MTN will be in the news over copyright infringement. It would be recalled that in 2016 alone MTN was caught up in several copyright infringement lawsuits. The company was involved in a Copyright Lawsuit with Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON). According to report, COSON claimed to have repeatedly asked MTN to obtain the appropriate licenses and pay requisite royalties for the musical works and sound recordings deployed by the company. However, MTN allegedly refused to oblige.

It would also be recalled that in 2016, MTN Nigeria settled with NCC to reduce the fine of N1.04 trillion to N330 Billion. The punitive fine was imposed because of the company’s failure to disconnect subscribers who were not adequately registered despite numerous warnings by the regulatory body urging its compliance.

Despite lawsuits and fines MTN Nigeria still maintains its position as the largest network in the country, with 54 million subscribers.