Sunny Ade’s suit for Supreme Court

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African Songs Limited (ASL) and its sister company, Take Your Choice Records Stores Limited (TYC), have vowed to challenge a Court of Appeal judgment which dismissed their appeal in a copyright infringement case filed against them by music legend King Sunny Ade (KSA).

Their lawyer, Ademola Olowoyeye, said the appeal would be filed as soon as the Supreme Court resumes from vacation.

ASL, founded by the late Chief Bolarinwa Abioro, and TYC are alleging that Sunny Ade and his band allegedly breached a deal reached about 49 years ago.

The Court of Appeal in Lagos, last November 9, in a lead judgment by Justice Biobele Georgewill, dismissed the companies’ appeal for lacking merit.

It affirmed the Federal High Court judgment by Justice John Tsoho in which some of KSA’s claims were granted.

But, ASL and TYC said they were confident of getting justice at the Supreme Court because the ‘’Court of Appeal erred.’’

They told the Court of Appeal that the copyright agreement  entered into on October 6, 1970 between ASL and KSA and his band was still valid and subsisting.

KSA had sought damages against ASL over a breach of contract and for the continuous infringement of the copyright in his musical works.

He sought N1billion as general damages against ASL and TYC, and an order compelling them to deliver to him all the copies of the photographs or likeness of KSA in their possession.

In a November 12, 2015 judgment, Justice Tsoho granted some of the reliefs, and awarded damages against ASL and TYC, which is being managed by the late Abioro’s son, Mr. Abubakar.

Dissatisfied, the defendants appealed, and sought a declaration that the copyright in all the musical works composed by KSA pursuant to the October 6, 1970 agreement between ASL and the musician and his band, still subsists.

The appellants sought a declaration that KSA’s suit at the lower court was an abuse of judicial process undertaken to their prejudice and financial loss.

They further asked the Court of Appeal to award them N500million damages arising from the respondent’s resort to and obtaining an order of injunction which he knew or ought to know constitutes an abuse of court process.

But, KSA and his band said they entered into an agreement with the appellants sometime in 1970 to produce, reproduce and sell his musical works contained in some master tapes for a period of five years only, beginning from October 5, 1970.

The musician said on the expiration of the agreement, the appellants deliberately refused to return the master tapes containing the works to him.

He said they continued with the manufacturing, reproduction and distribution of the musical works in violation of the agreement.

The Court of Appeal held that the appellants’claim for N500 million damages was unfounded since KSA’s suit at the lower court was pursuant to the exercise of his right to protect his copyright.

On why they are heading for the Supreme Court, ASL and TYC lawyers said the companies’copyright interest pursuant to the agreement extended far beyond five years.

According to them, the Court of Appeal did not consider key provisions of the agreement which states that “the artist shall not record, perform or repeat any record which hitherto has been previously recorded for the company until 20 after the previous recording for the company of such records, performance or repeat records.”

The appellants further argued that the agreement provides that the ASL “is still entitled to the sole right of production, sale (under such trademarks as it may select) use and performance (including broadcasting) throughout the world by any means whatsoever of records manufactured in pursuance of its agreement with artist.”

According to the appellants, it was also stated that “the artist agree that they will assign to the company the full copyright in music, lyrics of any works that artist records for the company where such works are the original compositions of the artist.”



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