Copyright Infringement Cases in Nigeria: Sale and Possession of Pirated Films and Sound Recordings

Copyright
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NLIPW Copyright Law Volume 2 Number 8

eDigest

(Sale and Possession of Pirated Films and Sound Recordings in Nigeria)

September 27, 2014

Content:

  1. Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Oba Okechukwu
  2. Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Dominion Kalu
  3. Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Nworie Anayo
  4. Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Godwin Obasi
  5. Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Eze Igwe
  6. Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Stanley Nwankwo

The sale of Illegal copies of CDs and DvDs containing local and foreign music and movies in Nigeria has been one of the areas the Nigerian Copyright Commission has focused on in its enforcement efforts aimed at protecting the rights of copyright holders.  Through the court system, the Commission has taken action against persons accused of selling or being in possession of pirated films and sound recordings.  Below are a few of such cases:

1. Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Oba Okechukwu

Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2012

Date:     Delivered on October 23, 2012
Judge:    Justice A. Abdu-Kafarati
Court:    Federal High Court Abuja
Citation: 55 NIPJD (FHC. 2012) ABJ/CR/56/2012
Charge: Sale and Possession of Local and Foreign Musical and Cinematograph Films

The accused was charged for being in possession (other than for private use) and for the sale of 126 infringing copies of cinematograph films and musical works in DVDs, VCDs and CD formats in breach of Section 20(2)(a) and (c) of the Nigerian Copyright Act, Cap C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.  The infringing works included foreign films and TV series with the titles: Hotel Rwanda (2004), Prison Break (TV Series 2005-2009), and Black Death (2010).

Section 20:

(2). Any person who-

(a) sells or lets for hire or for the purposes of trade or business, exposes or offers for sale or hires any infringing copy of any work in which copyright subsists; or

(c) has in his possession, other than for his private or domestic use, any infringing copy of any such work; or

is guilty of an offence under this Act, and liable upon conviction to a fine of N100 for every copy dealt with or imprisonment for six months or to both such fine and imprisonment.

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja sentenced the accused to three months imprisonment for the sale of 126 infringing copies of cinematograph films and musical works in DVDs, VCDs and CD formats in breach of Section 20(2)(a) and (c) of the Copyright Act.  Delivering the judgement on October 23, 2012, Justice A. Abdu-Kafarati also imposed a fine of N12,600 and ordered that the infringing copies be handed over to the Nigerian Copyright Commission for destruction in accordance with Section 20(5) of the Copyright Act.

“The punishment for the offence under Section 20(2)(a) of the Copyright Act, CAP C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, is a fine of N100 for every copy of the infringed item dealt with or in the case of an individual, to both fine and imprisonment.  The term of imprisonment is not specified by the Act. From the evidence i.e. exhibits C1 – C126, the copies dealt with are 126 in number. 126 x 100 = 12,600.

The convict is therefore sentenced to a fine of N12,600.00 and imprisonment for 3 months commencing from the date of his arrest and detention being 28 July, 2011.

Exhibits C1 – C126 to be handed over to the Complainant/Prosecution for destruction. The convict to be remanded in prison pending the payment of fine.”….Justice A. Abdu-Kafarati


2. Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Dominion Kalu

Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/12/2012

Date:     Delivered on March 28, 2012
Judge:    Justice Adamu Bello
Court:    Federal High Court Abuja
Citation:  55 NIPJD (FHC. 2012) ABJ/CR/12/2012
Charge:  Sale and Possession of Local and Foreign Musical and Cinematograph Films

The accused at the time of her arrest was in possession of 502 infringing copies of local and foreign musical and cinematograph films. The accused pleaded guilty to the charge and on March 28, 2012, Honourable Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court in Abuja convicted the accused and sentenced her to six months imprisonment, with an option of N20,000 fine.

“Since you pled guilty to the first count in the charge after it was read over and explained to you in open court and I am quite satisfied that you did so after you understood the charge and the effect of your plea and in view of the additional evidence tendered and received by the court supporting the charge,  I now find you guilty of the offence and convict you accordingly.”…Justice Adamu Bello

In sentencing the accused, the court took into consideration the fact the accused was a first time offender and other mitigating factors including the fact that she was a widow with children, pled for forgiveness and promised not to commit the crime for which she was charged and convicted.

“I have considered the plea made by the convict for leniency and the fact that she is a first time offender.  I have also considered her situation of being a widow with some children to look after and I am also tempted to say go home and sin no more but for the law which stipulates that a sentence must be imposed….I am persuaded by the proposition of the law that one of the attributes of sentencing is to reform the convict and not to destroy him.  I am therefore prepared to give the convict a liberal sentence based especially on her promise not to engage in the crime for which she was found guilty and convicted. I sentence her to 6 months imprisonment with the option of fine of N20,000.”…Justice Adamu Bello

The court also ordered that the exhibits, 502 copies of local and foreign musical and cinematograph films, be handed over to the Nigerian Copyright Commission for destruction in accordance with Section 20(5) of the Copyright Act.


3. Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Nwore Anayo

Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/10/2012

Date:     Delivered on March 12, 2012
Judge:    Justice A. Abdu-Kafarati
Court:    Federal High Court Abuja
Citation:  55 NIPJD (FHC. 2012) ABJ/CR/10/2012
Charge: Sale and Possession of Local and Foreign Musical and Cinematograph Films

The accused was charged for being in possession of 631 infringing copies of copyright works under Section 20(2)(c) of the Copyright Act.  The accused pleaded guilty.  Delivering the judgement on March 12, 2012, Justice Abdu-Kafarati of the Federal High Court No. 2 Abuja, sentenced the accused to both a fine of N63,310 and six months imprisonment.

“Since the convict is an individual, he is hereby sentenced to a fine of N100 per copy of the infringed items i.e. 631 x 100 = N63, 100 naira only.  He is also sentenced to six months imprisonment commencing from the date of arrest and detention being 20th May 2011.”…Justice A. Abdu-Kafarati

The court also ordered that the exhibits, 631 copies of infringing materials, be returned to the Nigerian Copyright Commission for destruction.


4. Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Godwin Obasi

Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/16/2012,

Date:     Delivered on May 30, 2012
Judge:    Justice Gladys K. Olotu
Court:    Federal High Court Abuja
Citation:  55 NIPJD (FHC. 2012) ABJ/CR/16/2012
Charge: Sale and Possession of Local and Foreign Musical and Cinematograph Films

The accused was charged for being in possession and for the sale of 400 infringing copies of cinematograph films and musical works in DVDs, VCDs and CD formats in breach of Section 20(2)(a) and (c) of the Nigerian Copyright Act, Cap C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

Count one of the charge read:  “That you, Obasi Godwin, male, of CD World (Villa) at FHA Junction, by Gado Nasco Road, Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court on or about the 20th day of May, 2011, had in your possession other than for your private or domestic use 400 (Four Hundred) infringing copies of foreign and local works embedded in optical discs such as DVD’s, VCD’s and CD’s, in which copyright subsists in favour of various right owners, without the consent and authorization of the copyright owners and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 20(2)(c) of the Nigerian Copyright Act, CAP. C28, Laws of Federation,  2004.”

Count two of the charge read:  “That you, Obasi Godwin, male, of  CD World (Villa) at FHA Junction, by Gado Nasco Road, Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, on or about the 20th day of May, 2011, for the purposes of trade or business, did expose or offer for sale 400 (Four Hundred) infringing copies of foreign and local works embedded in optical discs such as DVD’s, VCD’s and CD’s, in which copyright subsists in favour of various right owners, without the consent and authorization of the copyright owners and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 20(2)(a) of the Nigerian Copyright Act, CAP. C28, Laws of Federation, 2004.

The Federal High Court, Abuja convicted the accused to six months imprisonment on the two-count charge.  Justice Gladys K.Olotu, delivering the judgement on May 30, 2012, also imposed an option of N10,000 fine on each of the two counts, bringing the total to N20,000 fine.  The court ordered that the exhibits, 400 copies of infringing  optical discs, be returned to the Nigerian Copyright Commission for safe custody and for their destruction after 30 days if there is no appeal against the judgement.

“It is hereby ordered:

  1. That the Accused person is sentenced as follows:

(a) Count 1 = N10,000.00 (Ten Thousand Naira fine), or 1 month imprisonment.

(b) Count 2 = N10,000.00 (Ten Thousand Naira fine), or 1 month imprisonment.

Fines are cumulative (i.e. N20,000) but sentences will run concurrently.”


5. Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Eze Igwe

Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/93/2012

Date:     Delivered on January 30, 2013
Judge:    Justice Elvis S. Chukwu
Court:    Federal High Court Abuja
Citation:  55 NIPJD (FHC. 2013) ABJ/CR/93/2012
Charge:  Sale and Possession of Pirated Optical Discs

The accused, Eze Igwe, was charged on count one for breach of Section 20(2)(c) of the Nigerian Copyright Act, CAP C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, for being in possession of 250 copies of copyright infringing optical discs works in DVDs, VCDs and CDs.  The accused was also charged with breach of Section 20(2)(a) of the Copyright Act i.e. offering for sale 250 copies of copyright infringing optical discs works in DVDs, VCDs and CDs.  The infringing works included foreign films with the titles: Tears of the Sun (2003), Lord of the Rings (2001), The Losers (2010) and Mr. Bean’s Holiday (2007).

On January 30, 2013, Honourable Justice Elvis S. Chukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja convicted the accused of the two-count charge of optical disc piracy and sentenced him to six months imprisonment with an option of N5,000 fine.


6. Nigerian Copyright Commission v. Stanley Nwankwo

Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/14/2011

Date:     Delivered on February 27, 2012
Judge:    Justice B B. Aliyu
Court:    Federal High Court Abuja
Citation:  55 NIPJD (FHC. 2012) ABJ/CR/14/2011
Charge:  Sale and Possession of Local and Foreign Musical and Cinematograph Films

The accused was charged on count one for breach of Section 20(2)(c) of the Nigerian Copyright Act, CAP C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, for being in possession (other than for private use) of 504 infringing copies of local and foreign movies and music in DVD and CD formats.  The accused was also charged with breach of Section 20(2)(a) of the Copyright Act i.e. offering for sale 504 copies of copyright infringing optical discs works in DVDs, VCDs and CDs.

On February 27, 2012, Honourable Justice B.B. Aliyu of the Federal High Court in Abuja convicted the accused of the two-count charge and sentenced him to six months imprisonment with an option of N50, 400 fine.

“…upon your plea of guilty to the said charge of two counts; upon the evidence presented in support of the charge by the prosecution; and having shown no cause why you should not be convicted for the two count charge, I hereby convict you Stanley Nwankwo of the offences of

(1) Possession other than for private use, 504 (five hundred and four) infringing copies of foreign/local movies and music in DVD/CD format, in which copyright subsists in the owners, and without the consent of the copyright owners, contrary to and punishable under Section 20(2)(c) of the Nigerian Copyright Act, CAP C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

(2) Exposed and offer for sale 504 infringing copies of foreign/local movies and music in DVD/CD format, in which copyright subsists in the owners, and without the consent of the copyright owners, contrary to and punishable under Section 20(2)(a) of the Nigerian Copyright Act, CAP C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.  You are convicted as charged.”…Justice B.B.Aliyu

This article is intended to provide general information about the subject matter. Professional legal advice should be sought about specific circumstances.
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About Ufuoma Akpotaire 247 Articles
Ufuoma is a Senior Editor and Director of Regulatory Policy at NLIPW. She assists clients in the protection of copyrights, trademarks and patents. She counsels clients regarding validity and infringement matters and has experience acting against the infringement of IP and addressing counterfeit issues. She holds a Masters degree (LL.M.) from Columbia Law School, New York and a law degree from the University of Nigeria (LL.B. Honors). She is admitted to practice law in Nigeria and in the State of New York. Ufuoma cut her teeth in the intellectual property practice groups of some of the largest law firms in Nigeria and has years of experience working with major non-profit organizations in New York. Email: uakpotaire@nlipw.com