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Crime & Punishment of Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Source: Kasapa FM

Copyright breach: Court fines Taabea TV CEO GHC800 for being absent

The Kumasi High Court has placed a fine of GHc800 on CEO of Taabea TV, a free to air digital television broadcaster, Mr. Christian Akwasi Agyeman for refusal to appear in court on Thursday, May 24 to defend himself and his station over alleged theft of intellectual property.

The court, presided over by His Honour, Justice Kossi Efo Klago, slapped the fine on Mr. Akwasi Agyeman in absentia after the man and his station, impudently, refused to appear before him on court day.

Justice Klago, by that action has sent a clear signal to Mr. Christian Akwasi Agyeman that he has been pulling over the case in which he and his station stand accused of violating Ghana’s copyright laws to steal and use a song belonging to Megafame Media could lead him into contempt of court.

On Thursday, the court sat on the case that could lead to a change in the culture of impunity and abuse of Ghana’s copyright laws especially in respect of the use of music. However, on court day, Christian Akwasi Agyeman did not step foot in court, neither did his lawyers.

His Honour, Justice Klago convicted the Taabea TV boss and his station to the fine in clear signal to the media mogul that the court is not in the mood for jokes.

In the case, Megafame Media, a Ghanaian entertainment company, has sued Taabea TV for using its song, “Youth in Agriculture,” to run a show, “Telefarm” without any recourse to Megafame.

Megafame, which had recorded the song with intent to secure a United Nations sponsorship for a campaign to promote agriculture among African youth is demanding that Taabea pay Ghc200,000 for the copyright breach, which forced Ralph Asante, CEO of Megafame media, to abandon work in Europe, to pursue justice in Ghana.

Taabea TV and its representatives claimed that they knew nothing about the copyright abuse because the song had been used when Taabea TV was called Trust TV.

Interestingly, investigations at the National Communication Authority show that the very same Christian Akwasi Agyeman, who was the owner of Taabea TV is the same Christian Akwasi Agyeman who owns Taabea TV.

Mr. Akwasi Agyeman’s General Manager, when Taabea TV was Trust TV, is still helmsman as General Manager, now that Trust TV is Taabea TV. Apparently, Taabea TV is only a re-brand of Trust TV.

Court documents that The Republic has sighted show that in addition to using Megafame’s, “Youth In Agriculture” song to sell “Telefarm” to sponsors, Mr. Akwasi Agyeman and his TV station had also passed the song off as their own intellectual property.

The same Taabea (Trust) TV had also published the song along with “Telefarm” widely, on many platforms, including a monetized YouTube channel where it had generated traffic and raked in money for them, The Republic understands.

Mr. Christian Akwasi Agyeman and his employee General Manager at Taabea TV, Daniel Yeboah, then took to tricks, including evading journalistic enquiry into the matter, to escape retribution.

Consequently, owners of the intellectual property sued the man and his station at the Kumasi High Court for Justice. Megafame Media Production, is among other things, demanding a $200,000 penalty over the thievish usage of their song, “Youth in Agriculture,” by Taabea TV.

“Youth in Agriculture” is an edutainment piece that Megafame Media, which specializes in using music to promote national causes, recorded in 2011 to whip up the interest of Ghanaian youth in Agriculture. The effort towards promotion of Agriculture comes after a successful promotion of blood donation by the same Megafame in a similar fashion, for which Mega Fame won an award.

In undertaking the project, the Chief Executive Officer of Megafame, Ralph Asante, had hired the services of a Ghanaian reggae artist based in Germany and a producer from the UK, where Mr. Asante had been domiciled for some time.

Megafame had also contracted a technical crew that included Italians and Germans, along with actors who had been recruited to shoot the video for the project. According to information available, some of the scenes in the video had been shot in Zambia.

In total, the whole project had cost some $50,000 to complete and Megafame had had plans to promote the concept at the United Nations.

However, while Mr. Asante was in Europe working on contacts to get the project promoted to the UN, Taabea TV, formerly Trust TV, suddenly started using the song on its channel for a program called “Telefarm,” for which it is said to have sought and secured sponsorship.

In addition to airing it on its channel, Taabea TV had also published “Telefarm,” along with “Youth in Agriculture” as promotional soundtrack on social media. It is said that “Telefarm” and the soundtrack had run for several months on Youtube as well.

The flagrant copyright abuse constrained Mr. Ralph Asante to travel down to Ghana to confront Taabea TV over the offence. People familiar with the issue say that initially, Mr. Ralph Asante was arrogantly rebuffed by Taabea TV and its owner who had continued to use the song.

Following from this, Megafame Media lodged a complaint with the Copyright Office in Accra, which summoned a response from Taabea TV. In its response, Mr. Akwasi Agyeman, owner of the station, had refused to appear, but sent a lower level staff who traveled down from their Kumasi base to the Copyright Office’ in Accra.

At the meeting, legal ownership of the intellectual rights to the song was proven to the Taabea TV representative, after which, Megafame Media demanded a reimbursement of the $50,000 that it had spent on the project by way of payment for copyright penalty.

The Taabea TV representative had then pleaded that he was just a lower level staff and would therefore need to report back to his boss, Mr. Akwasi Agyeman.

Weeks after that, the General Manager of Taabea TV, Daniel Yeboah, wrote a letter to Megafame Media, acknowledging the abuse of Megafame’s copyright to the “Youth in Agriculture” song and pleading for forgiveness. Beyond this, Taabea did nothing further, not even writing back to the copyright office to give the response promised by its representative at the earlier meeting with Megafame.

In May 2017, a month after the meeting at the Copyright Office in Accra over the issue, Ms Dorothy Habadah, Senior State Attorney at the Copyright office, wrote to Megafame and asked them to commence legal action against Taabea TV after its owners had refused to revert to the copyright office.

Megafame Media, according to information also waited for sometime for Taabea TV to revert to them in vain. Rather, the company suddenly adopted an attitude of evasions while its owner, Mr. Akwasi Agyeman, has since taken to snobbishness.

Among others, Megafame media is seeking $200,000 in damages from Taabea TV before a Kumasi High Court.

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