NCC conspired with Shoprite to subvert justice –Victims
An artiste, Friday Emeh, aka G-Kase, and his manager, Faruk Adamu, have accused Retail Supermarket Nigeria Limited (Shoprite) of infringing on their intellectual property rights by using a jingle recorded by Emeh to promote its brand without compensating them.
PUNCH Metro gathered that Emeh, an artiste under Adamu’s management company, BL Entertainment, recorded a jingle titled: ‘Shoprite’ in 2013, while in the employment of the retail outlet as a till parker at its Apo Grand Tower Mall branch in the Abuja Municipal Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory.
Emeh was said to have played the jingle to the former branch manager of the store, one Stephen Asigemeh, who upon hearing it, promised to present it to the management and revert to the artiste on the decision taken.
According to Emeh, efforts to get the management’s response proved abortive until he resigned from the firm to focus on his music career.
However, a few months after the 28-year-old left the firm, the jingle was allegedly being played in the Shoprite store at the AGTM.
Footage showing the jingle being played as customers were shopping in the store was provided to PUNCH Metro.
According to Emeh and Adamu, an attempt to get the management of Shoprite to reward their efforts in producing the jingle was rebuffed despite obtaining a copyright certificate on the jingle.
The narratives however, changed when the management of Shoprite, through its legal representative, allegedly slammed a N100m suit on Emeh for using the word, ‘Shoprite’, in the jingle.
The Benue State indigene said, “I played the jingle on my phone to Asigemeh, who asked for it so that he could play it to the management for approval and revert to me for negotiation, but I never heard from him again.
“I resigned and relocated to Lagos and I started receiving calls from my former co-workers that they heard my jingle in a Shoprite store. When Adamu also heard it at a Shoprite outlet, he wrongfully accused me of collecting money from the firm without his knowledge.
“So, I petitioned Shoprite requesting compensation, but it refused after infringing on my intellectual property. I want the government and the relevant agencies to intervene to help me get justice, because I have been sued to court for N100m for using the word, Shoprite, as the title of the jingle, which the firm’s legal team said was its trademark.
“I have the copyright to the jingle, because it is my creative expression, and it was also registered in my name with the Nigerian Copyright Commission.”
In a bid to get justice, Adamu said the NCC was contacted but that the former Director of Prosecutions at the commission, Abdul Kohol, allegedly conspired with Shoprite to subvert justice despite evidence to back up his and the artiste’s claims.
He said, “The footage showing when the jingle was being played at the Shoprite store in the AGTM was recorded on December 24, 2014, but when I asked Asigemeh about it, he said Emeh gifted them the jingle. But when Emeh demanded compensation, Shoprite claimed to have no copy of the jingle and playing it; they never knew that I have the footage as evidence, so, I approached the NCC, which invited the Shoprite team, Friday and myself for a meeting.
“During the meeting, the Shoprite team was asked if it had intellectual right over its workers as Emeh recorded the jingle while still in its employment, but it said no. I later presented the footage to the NCC investigators, who after showing the Shoprite representatives, requested a month to revert on the settlement consideration after sending a copy to their head office in South Africa, but we never heard from them.
“After three months, we got back to the NCC and we were directed to Abdul Kohol, who also said he had not heard from Shoprite.
“Later on, Shoprite wrote a letter stating that it had rights over the intellectual property of its workers and claimed ownership of the jingle and got an injunction stopping us from reporting the matter to any other organisation and later slammed a N100m suit on Emeh.
“The NCC later filed criminal charges against Shoprite, but messed up the case, because its representatives didn’t tender the footage and some of the documents we presented during the court proceedings. We went to the NCC to help us arrange a settlement, but it failed us. I am blaming the NCC for failing to perform its duty, because if it had done the right thing, Shoprite would have had no leg to stand on. I believe that the NCC conspired with Shoprite to mess up the case.”
Annoyed by the state of things, the 37-year-old Adamu, started an online campaign tagged: #FarukvsShoprite, which has attracted several reactions.
One Dammie, through his handle, @ojedammie, urged Shoprite to do the needful by helping Faruk, who has been on the case since 2013.
“Shoprite Abuja should do the needful and help poor Faruk achieve greater heights in life; he has done nothing wrong. This action of Shoprite is really affecting him,” he wrote.
Another user, @MarotheOG, tweeted, “I am really concerned about the role of the NCC in all these; shouldn’t they be the bridge between Faruk and Shoprite?”
When contacted, the Director of Prosecutions, NCC, Obi Ezeilo, said the court would determine the copyright owner of the jingle, adding that the document issued to Emeh for the jingle was a notification acknowledging that he submitted the jingle to the commission.
Ezeilo stated, “I know about the case; there are two issues involved; Shoprite went to court and sued Emeh, claiming that it had a copyright on the jingle. The matter is still pending before the Federal High Court in Abuja, and it came up recently. The court still has to determine the owner of the copyright on that work; we as a copyright commission cannot determine the ownership of the work when the matter is still in court.
“If you create a work, you can apply on our e-registration platform to notify us that you have created the work. We will process it and if it appears that you have created a work, we will issue a certificate acknowledging that you have given us that notice.
“But the Copyright Act says if a work is original, you automatically become the copyright owner, but there are so many other exceptions like if what you have done is a copy of another person’s work; when you are sending it to us, we will acknowledge it and presume that it is your work; but if that presumption is challenged by another person, the court will then determine who is the rightful owner.
“The man (Emeh) is claiming copyright based on our certificate of notification; so, when Shoprite sued him, part of what it claimed was that we should remove his name from our register, which confirmed that he had a work in our depository and that was how we got involved.”
When contacted, the Shoprite media team, stated, “Shoprite Nigeria has always denied and defended the claims made against it on this case. We can, however, not provide any comment on the matter at this time as it is subject to court proceedings and therefore sub judice and the law must be allowed to take its course.”