By Mikias Sebsibe : Reporter
Mikaya Behailu, a prominent songwriter and performer, was awarded 100,000 birr as a compensation for moral damage last week after the Eighth Civil Bench of Federal High Court found Nahom Records Inc liable for copyright infringement in relation to two of the performer’s songs.
Mikaya released her first album entitled Shemametew containing eleven tracks after striking a 250,000 birr record deal with Nahom Records Inc four years ago. A year prior to the record deal, the demo of two of the songs (Sebebu and Lemalemih) included in this album, were sent to the record company. However, the record company in its September 2007 production of Balageru Vol 3, incorporated the two songs, which were written and performed by Mikaya.
Following this, Mikaya filed a lawsuit at the Federal High Court in June 2008 claiming that the record company incorporated these songs in the Balageru Vol 3 album without obtaining her consent. The songs are low in quality in terms of performance, composition and standard compared to the ones which were included in the performer’s first album released almost a year before, Mikaya alleged in her statement of claim. The substandard reproduction of the songs, which were originally sent as a demo to the record company, also puts a damper on the reputation of the performer, the plaintiff argued.
Mikaya, who demanded a compensation of 250,000 birr as a moral damage from Nahom Records PLC, also claimed a payment of 50,000 birr as a compensation for an economic right over her work. The record company, which is primarily based in the US, however, contested the court’s jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter. Nahom Records also argued it had an exclusive economic right over the works.
The civil bench, presided over by Judge Muluken Teshale, which assumed jurisdiction on the basis of the nationality of the author, found the record company liable for violating the author’s rights when it reproduced the songs. Although the company owns the economic right for the author’s first album, it was not entitled to include the demo in the Balageru Vol 3 album released almost a year later, the Judge maintained.
The court, which rejected Mikaya’s claim for 50,000 birr economic right over the work for lack of corroborating evidence, awarded the plaintiff 100,000 birr, the minimum amount for moral damage in the law, taking into consideration the fact that the songs were already in the public domain by the time they were reproduced.
The court also barred the record company from reproducing and distributing the songs in its Balageru Vol 3 album.
“Although it was a long process, the company was found guilty of violations of copyright laws and I am compensated for it,” Mikaya told The Reporter. “We are satisfied with the decision,” Mikaya’s lawyer, Ameha Bedilu, added.
It was the second time for the civil bench to deliver the same ruling on the matter, the first being a decision rendered in the absence of the defendant. When the plaintiff (Mikaya) instituted an execution proceeding after the first ruling, Nahom Records Inc. appealed to the court that it was not properly summoned to the suit and opted for retrial, which the court accepted.
“We are currently reviewing the decision of the court and considering our options,” Hasabe Molla, lawyer of the record company, told The Reporter. “We have not yet arrived at a decision as to our next move.”