…In a Stealing Case
Owner of Taabea TV, a free to air digital television broadcaster, Mr. Christian Akwasi Agyeman, has been convicted to a fine of ghc 800, by the High Court in Kumasi, for refusal to appear in court on Thursday to defend himself and his station over alleged theft of intellectual property.
The court, presided over by His Honor, 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 the media mogul that hanky-panky that he has been pulling over the case in which he and his station stand accused of vandalizing 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 which potentiates a watershed outcome 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.
A livid Justice Klago, who is already making history in Kumasi with his serious interest in the case, then convicted the Taabea man and his station to the fine in clear signal to the media mogul that the court is not in the mood for jokes.
The Republic can report on authority that the Taabea TV boss’ refusal to appear in court dovetails a standoffish attitude that he has perpetrated over the case, including deliberate refusal to respond to this paper’s enquiries about the case.
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.
The Republic, which has been following the case, was shocked at a point when 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.
The Republic has also heard that Taabea TV is actually operating illegally because it does not have permit from the NCA to operate.
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.
Allegedly, over several months that Taabea (Trust) TV had used the song to harvest cash, it had not bothered to even acknowledge the owners of the intellectual rights covering the song. What’s more, when Megafame Media later confronted Taabea TV, the station and its boss thumped their noses at them.
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.
The dirty tricks that Taabea TV has since been deploying in respect of the matter were experienced first hand by The Republic when this paper attempted to get through to the station.
Immediately a call to its landline was picked and this paper announced its intent to get their side of the story, the person who was speaking at the end of the landline cut the call.
Later The Republic got a mobile number said to belong to Mr. Daniel Yeboah, the General Manager of Taabea TV, but immediately we made it known that we wished to get their side of the story in respect of the issue, the person at the other end of the line claimed the number did not belong to Mr. Daniel Yeboah.
Another number was given to this paper to call but when it was dialed, someone else picked and said he was neither a staff of Taabea TV nor did he know the General Manager. Thenceforward, Taabea TV has not come through.
As it became clear that Taabea TV and its owner had decided to play tricks over the issue, Megafame decided to sue.
Among others, it is seeking $200,000 in damages from Taabea TV before a Kumasi High Court. The Republic understands that Taabea has since entered appearance.