Adebayo Obajemu

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division has given order compelling the National Universities Commission, NUC and Airtel to pay the sum of N703 million as damages  for infringing on the copyright of a media company, TV Xtra Production.

In his ruling Wednesday, Justice Inyang Ekwo said the actions of the defendants clearly breached the copyright of the plaintiff.

TV Xtra Production’s CEO and General Editor Arise News, Christian Ojorovwu Ogodo, who designed and registered the quiz programme, ‘University Challenge’ with the National Copyrights Commission, was taken aback to see the programme being aired on Television by NUC and Zain, now Airtel four weeks after he made the presentation to the NUC.

In its defence, Zain Nigeria submitted that the plaintiff (TV Xtra ) not the original owner of the programme as it claimed that the idea was picked from a similar programme, the British Universities Challenge.

However, Justice Ekwo held that the defendant (Airtel) had misconceived the case of plaintiff, who is seeking remedy for the theft of his work, which he had duly registered in Nigeria at the time it was aired by the defendants, Airtel and NUC in televisions in Nigeria.

The Judge declared that airing of the programme on AIT and NTA without the permission of the author violated sections 2(a) (1), 6 (1) (a) (1) and 8 of the Copyrights Act.

Part of Justice Ekwo’s judgment reads:

“The law is that a work in Nigeria is the exclusive right of the owner to control the reproduction of the work in any material form and making  adaptations of the work going by Section 6(1) (a) (1) and 8 of the Copyright Act”, the judge said.

“I find that the case of the plaintiff succeeds on the merit  I make an order entering judgement in the terms of the claims made by the plaintiff.”

TV Xtra had initiated the copyright infringement suit on December 18, 2009, making the following claims:

* The sum of N500 million as special damages for the infringement.

* N200 million as general damages for airing the programme titled: ‘Zain African Challenge’ in Nigerian televisions in breach of plaintiff’s rights.

* The sum of N3 million as cost of filing and prosecuting the suit.

* An order of the court compelling the NUC which is the first defendant in the suit, to endorse and approve the programme called ‘University Challenge’.

* An order of perpetual injunction restraining Zain Nigeria from producing, airing, marketing or exercising any right in respect of the programme called ‘Zain African Challenge’”.

The Judge ruled in favor of all the claims madr by the plaintiff.

Attempts to get Airtel to speak on the matter did not yield any result as Erhumu Bayagbon of Airtel corporate communications department did not
Pick his calls , nor acknowlege messages sent to him seeking reactions to the matter.