There appears to be increasing awareness of the need to protect the intellectual properties of artistes against the activities of copyright offenders.
A few days ago, a new dimension was introduced to the campaign to rid the global entertainment industry of the menace of infringers when American pop star, Prince, reportedly instituted a lawsuit against 22 Internet users who posted links to his live concerts on file-sharing sites on Facebook and blogs – without seeking permission from him or his record label.
Apparently monitoring the posts of the alleged offenders on Facebook, Prince was said to have filed the suit in the US, claiming damages worth $22m.
But a report posted on Lindaikeji blogspot.com, said the real names of most of the defendants in the lawsuit were not mentioned and the websites named in the suit could no longer be accessed.
Investigation by our correspondent shows that at the slightest sign of trouble, the links to the superstar’s live concerts may have been swiftly pulled off the file-sharing sites on Facebook on Wednesday.
But another report monitored online indicates that following the development, Prince does not intend to pursue the claims of $1 million per defendant any longer.
In a statement released by his lawyer, Rhonda Trotter, Prince explained why he decided to institute the suit. “Our continuous goal is to provide a high quality experience for fans. When we see material that does not represent that quality, we will ask to have it taken down. We regret that we had to take this action to be taken seriously. However, we are pleased that the material has been taken down. That is our goal,” he said.
The report described the development as the latest “skirmish” in the rock legend’s ongoing battle to prevent unapproved distribution of his music.
The singer’s action, which was widely reported online, no doubt sent warning signals to millions of Internet users operating Facebook accounts and blogs around the world.
Down here in Nigeria, copyright infringement remains a contentious issue in the music industry. Last November, two versions of a new song by Wande Coal, entitled ‘Baby Face’, were at the centre of an altercation between the Afro pop singer and his erstwhile boss, Don Jazzy of Mavin Records. The latter had gone on Twitter after listening to the song and accused Wande Coal of infringing his copyright.
Don Jazzy’s actual grouse was that Coal went ahead to record the song – a studio demo he claimed to have made about a year earlier – without giving him due credits.
“How long will I continue to sweat and some people will choose to steal from me? I am nice and easy going does not mean you should disrespect me. All I ask for is give me my credit and nothing else,” he had tweeted.
But Don Jazzy’s claims did not go down well with Wande Coal. Hurt by the fact that the Mavin Records boss had to express his feelings openly on the social network without confronting him first, he tweeted a message, accusing Don Jazzy of trying to bring him down.
A few days later, Afro pop singer, Abolore Akande, aka 9ice, drew attention to the persistent threat posed by copyright infringement to the development of the music industry when he tweeted a message on his Twitter handle, warning bloggers and owners of websites to desist from uploading his songs on their blogs and websites without clearance from him.
The singer had tweeted, “All websites and blogs should adhere strictly to this information: Do not upload my songs on your websites without my permission. Good intention, wrong execution. Please, honour this instruction.”
As expected, members of the public were divided over 9ice’s action. While it was misconstrued by some people as an affront to bloggers, others said it was a positive move in the right direction.
Just as in Prince’s case, bloggers and other copyright violators were severely criticised for jeopardising the efforts of musicians and the growth of the music industry by uploading the works of musicians on their blogs without due authorisation from the copyright owners.
“Most bloggers are killing the music industry by illegally distributing copyrighted materials. They rip songs belonging to artistes without permission and put them up for free download. This is not right,” one critic said.
Reacting to the recent lawsuit filed by the American singer on Thursday, the Chairman of the Copyright Society of Nigeria, Tony Okoroji, frowned at the habit of uploading links to the works of artistes online without permission from the owners of the copyright.
“Facebook fans have no right to upload the links to Prince’s live concerts on their accounts without his permission. It is bad enough when this is done for public consumption because the materials in dispute will surely circulate all over the world. And if everybody decides to download it, nobody will want to attend his concerts.
“Most people take the issue of intellectual property lightly. They have to understand that copyright owners just won’t allow you to use their intellectual property without their permission. Apart from that, infringing other people’s copyright does have deep economic implications,” he said.
Also, the Chief Executive Officer of Curve Communications, Deola Ogunowo, observed that most Nigerians still regard sensitive issues, such as copyright, as a “big joke” and such attitude could be responsible for the high incidence of copyright infringement in the country.