The Copyright Society of Liberia (COSOL), charged with the sole responsibility of collecting and distributing royalty for creative content, has summoned for a conference the management of AquaLife Mineral Water Bottling Company over allegation of violating the intellectual property (IP) rights of Bahn Ben Geezay, alias “Wedigar the Comedian.”
COSOL, the official secretariat of the Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO), was established in 2009 through regulation LIPO/COSOL/CR/001/2019.
COSOL’s decision to summon the mineral water company stems from a formal complaint filed against AquaLife by Bahn Ben Geezay alias “Wedigar the comedian”.
The complainant, Wedigar the Comedian, alleged in a letter dated May 24, 2022 that AquaLife Mineral Water Bottling Company violated his economic rights by using his intellectual property without any economic benefits to him.
“We represent the legal & economic interest of Mr. Bahn Ben Geezay, alias Wedigar the Comedian. Mr. Geezay has informed us in an official complaint that his economic rights over a Jingo developed for your company in 2021, under a work for hire, which was rejected due to low quality of production, has been in used by your company for online and other forms of promotion without his authorization,” COSOL’s June 6, 2022 communication notified AquaLife Mineral Water Company.
The letter of summon, under the signature of COSOL’s Executive Director, Prince Emmanuel Decker, further informed the local mineral water company that COSOL’s initial investigation conducted has authenticated the veracity of Geezay’s claim of infringement on his economic rights by the use of his intellectual property without his consent and financial dividend.
“Furthermore, our investigation in corroboration of Mr. Geezay complaint has informed us that your company has been, and is still, using the Jingo as produced by Mr. Geezay for online promotion,” COSOL’s letter for conference stated.
AquaLife Mineral Water Bottling Company and complainant Geezay were expected to meet in a conference, scheduled by COSOL on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, which was postponed due to the mineral water company’s request for an extension.
The pending conference, according to COSOL’s Executive Director, Prince Emmanuel Decker, is aimed at discussing the timetable on how the alleged infringer, Aqua Life Mineral Water Bottling Company, can settle the comedian for the unauthorized airing of his intellectual work.
“In view therefore, I herewith request a conference with you on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, at our offices on United Nations Drive, adjacent the General Services Agency (GSA), to discuss the possibility of settlement of Mr. Geezay for the unauthorized exploitation of his intellectual property rights, an undisputed fact, as per your continuous use of his jingo on your social media pages,” COSOL’s communicated copy, which is in the possession of this paper, stated.
“Wedigar the Comedian” had complained to COSOL in a communication, dated May 24, 2022, a copy of which is also in the possession this paper, seeking COSOL’s intervention in the unauthorized use of his creative work by the local water bottling company without his consent and financial benefit.
“I write as a Provisional Member of COSOL and a well-known Liberian Comedian. Mr. Decker, as comedian, my Intellectual Property Rights have been robbed by Aqua Life Liberia, Mineral Water bottling company,” Geezay’s letter of complaint read.
The complainant accused AquaLife of using his creative art, Jingo, on their online and other platforms for advertisement purposes when in fact the company had already degraded the work on ground of low quality of production.
Geezay’s communication said, “During the year 2021, AquaLife contacted my previous management team to produce a jingo, after which we would sit and conclude contractual arrangements for same. However, to my surprise, AquaLife disqualified the production and returned same to us. Unfortunately for us, they (Aqua Life) are using the same Jingo that was disqualified without authorization for online commercials, and has been doing so for more than six (6) months.”
As a provisional member, Wedigar the Comedian’s involvement of COSOL in the matter is in keeping with COSOL’s Legal Assistance Program for Creative Artists across the country and to ensure COSOL compels Aqua Life Mineral Water Bottling Company to account for the illegal use of his creative work.
“In view thereof, I write to seek Legal Assistance under the office of Legal Assistance Program for Creative Artists to bring Aqua Life Mineral Water Company to book for violation of the Economic Rights of my IP Assets without Authorization,” Bahn Ben Geezay stated.
When the Hot Pepper made contact with the management of the AquaLife Mineral Water Bottling Company via a mobile phone number, 0777-555-567, the company admitted to using Geezay’s intellectual content on its online platform, but averred that all financial obligations were settled through the company that was hired to produce the jingo.
According to AquaLife, the BLISS Group of Companies, owned and operated by Alexander Togar Bealded as Chief Executive Officer, was hired to produce the jingo for the company’s online platform. The local mineral water company added that the agreed fees for the jingo production were paid to the BLISS Group of Companies.
AquaLife stated that they had no direct interaction with Geezay, the actual owner and producer of the creative work, as they dealt with the management of the BLISS Group of Companies. Aqua Life did not mention the exact amount paid to the BLISS Group of Companies for the jingo production.
When contacted, the CEO of the BLISS Group of Companies, Alexander Togar Bealded, confirmed AquaLife Mineral Water Bottling Company’s version of the story, but insisted that Geezay was paid his fair share of the proceeds for his intellectual work.
Although Bealded also failed to state the amount paid to the comedian for his intellectual property, he added that at the time of the incident, in 2021, he (Bealded) was solely managing the comedian, and maintained that Geezay did receive his share for his intellectual work.
In a related development, the Copyright Society of Liberia has closed down several businesses involved with the underground production of local creative contents.
The weeklong Joint Enforcement Exercise which was carried out by COSOL alongside the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) saw the closure of over ten (10) businesses within Monrovia and Paynesville City.
Business entities COSOL shutdown due to non-compliance, which includes the lack of copyright clearance, import notification form and purchase receipt, are AVASH Business Center, CO More Business Center, Banou Enterprise , Dreams Electronics, Lianclare Business Center, Ekenson Business, Mother of Perpetual Blessings, E. New Golden Business Center, D. Devine Business Center and God Favor Business Center.
Reports say that since its establishment COSOL, under the leadership of Executive Director Prince E. Decker and his team, has been working to create an unambiguous path for achieving value addition in gathering benefits for Liberia’s creative industry.
COSOL has also set in place mechanisms aimed at providing security for intellectual properties for the financial benefit of local creative artists across the country.