Copyright Infringement: MTN Managing Director, Four Other Defendants Fail To Appear In Court

The trial of the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd, Karl Toriola, Senior Executive Officer, Nkeakam Abhulimen and two others for criminal charges bordering on “copyright infringement” was on Monday stalled due to the absence of the defendants in the court.



The telecommunications giant is standing trial following criminal charges filed by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) against Karl Toriola, Nkeakam Abhulimen; Fun Mobile Ltd, a telecommunications service provider; and Yahaya Maibe, its CEO.


The matter which was slated for arraignment before Justice Inyang Ekwo at the Federal High Court Abuja could not go on due to the absence of the defendants, Toriola and Abhulimen in court.


Both Toriola and Abhulimen were not represented in court by any lawyer but MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd was represented by Obafemi Ajaba while Fun Mobile and Maibe were represented by Abdullateef Afolabi.



The prosecution lawyer, Emeka Ogbonna told the court the defendants were not in the court despite the fact they had been served with the processes.


He said the defendants had been on administrative bail and the sureties also assured that they would be in the court today.


He said the expectation was that all of them would be in court today.


He therefore sought for the adjournment to enable the defendants to appear in court and take their plea.



“If they don’t come willingly, we know what to do to bring them before the court,” Ogbonna said.


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But in his own submission counsel for the MTN (1st defendant) told the court that only the company was served with the court processes.


He added that they had filed a motion on notice on April 26, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to proceed on the matter as presently constituted.


Maleke Moye who is the nominal complainant in the case and his lawyers, Abudul T.Kohol and Zino Ugboma were also present in court to watch the brief.


The presiding judge, while agreeing with the prosecution’s request, therefore adjourned the case to May 14, 2024 for arraignment.



It would be recalled that the case with the number FHC/ABJ/CR/111/2024 was filed at the federal high court in Abuja.

In the three-count charge, NCC alleged that the defendants, between 2010 and 2017, “offered for sale, sold and traded for business, infringed musical works of Maleke Moye, an artiste, without his consent and authorisation”.


The commission alleged that the defendants used Maleke’s musical works and sound recordings with subsisting copyright, known as “caller ring back tunes” without the authorisation of the artist.



The musical works and sound recordings of the musician allegedly infringed upon include 911, Minimini-Wana Wana, Stop Racism, Ewole, 911 instrumental, Radio, Low Waist, and No bother.



The defendants were also alleged to have illegally distributed the musical works to their subscribers, without authorisation, thereby infringing on the rights of the artist.



In the third count, the defendants were alleged of having in their possession, the musical works and sound recordings of the artist, other than for their personal or domestic use.

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The copyright commission said the alleged offences are punishable under section 20 (2) (a) (b) and (c) of the Copyright Act, Cap. C28, laws of the federation of Nigeria, 2004.



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