Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Justice delayed in copyright infringement case

In April 2006 Kora Africa Awards Nominee Mikaya Behailu sent samples of two “single,”

tracks to US based Nahom Records.  In September 2007 a music album entitled “Balageru 3,” produced by Nahom records, contained two singles named “Sebebu” and “Leman Lemahe” which Mikaya said were the samples she sent to the production company.
She had released the two songs; “Sebebu” and   “Leman Lemahe” in her album called “Shemametewe” with nine other singles that she sold to Nahom Records for 250 thousand birr.
However Mikaya said the songs on the other album released by the production company were released without her permission and that the singing style and composition was inferior to what she had sent the studio.
She asked the record company to pull out the two singles from the “Balageru 3 Album” and copy it again or remove it from the album entirely.
When they refused, she felt the company robbed her of income from selling her album and inflicted damage on her reputation and name, so she sued the company on June 23, 2008, under a Tort law, which is common in the West but not in Ethiopia. This type of suit occurs when a plaintiff feels that damage occurred and use has been made beyond what was stipulated in a contract.   
She sued the company for 50 thousand birr in lost revenue and “moral damages” to the amount of of 250 thousand birr.
The defendant argued the songs in the album they produced were not really different styles or compositions.  It also argued that the court had no jurisdiction and that the songs sent to the company were not significant samples and thus, were not protected under copyright law. Since they bought the songs they argued that they were the rightful owner and could decide how to distribute them.   
The court sided with Mikaya saying that because the plaintiff is an Ethiopian national with permanent residence in Ethiopia she is under the protection of the Ethiopian law even though Nahom Records is located outside the country.  
It agreed that two singles were original works recorded for mass marketing purposes with commercial significance. It ruled the plaintiff had suffered losses of 25 thousand birr saying she had failed to show how much she would have gotten if she had prevented the release of the two singles.
The court awarded the plaintiff moral compensation of 100 thousand birr and allowed her the right to have albums containing the two songs be prohibited from distribution and sale.
The court had also ordered the defendant to be present on October 25 to pay a judgment of 133 thousand birr, including legal fees.
However the defendant was repeatedly absent for multiple court dates and on December 19 the court closed the case stating that it will be reopened when the defendant’s address is located.