Nigerian singer, Flavour N’abania and South Africa’s DJ Cleo may be on their way to a huge royalty war with Telco giant, MTN.
The duo enjoyed hugely successful hit singles which would have generated significant revenue when sold by the companies as a download, ringtone or ringback tone.
Sources in the camp of both stars have revealed that they have asked for sales data from MTN, its subsidiary and content aggregator, Content Connect Africa, CCA, and Vodacom so they can have them audited to establish whether their copyright has been infringed.
While the companies denied infringements, with CCA dismissing the allegations as ‘ludicrous’, industry insiders said their liability could run into billions in unpaid royalties and fines in South Africa alone.
According to City Press, if they can prove copyright violations, the SA Copyright Act provides for a first offence fine of up to R5,000 or a jail term. If it is a repeat offence, the act provides for a fine of up to R10,000 or a jail term, per infringement.
DJ Cleo and Flavour are not the only musicians in dispute with MTN. In December, the Nigerian Copyright Commission filed criminal charges against MTN Nigeria for copyright infringements relating to the work of Nigerian artist, Baba 2010.
MTN has however settled with Baba 2010 and he has withdrawn his complaint.
MTN reacted through sales, marketing and distribution executive, Larry Annetts: “It is not correct that MTN is liable for billions of rands in royalty payments. It is up to date with most royalty payments with Capasso and is in the process of settling the recent royalty invoice for the current period which amounts to less than R1 million. MTN understands the importance and imperative of paying music royalties for music that it sells on its platform. With regard to payment of mechanical royalties, we have been trying to resolve this from as far back as 2012.
“MTN has been dealing with alleged claims for Will of Steel Productions since 2012. Mr. Gilfillan was invited to participate in this process; however, MTN had not received any document or response from him.”
On its part, Vodacom also denied violating any musician’s copyright. “In particular, we reject any suggestion of criminal misconduct”, it said in a statement.

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