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Liberty Records Incorporated & Anor. v. M.Y. Owotutu

Federal High Court

Judgement delivered on Saturday, March 10, 1990
Citation: 33 NIPJD [FHC. 1990] 116/1986
Suit No. FHC/L/116/86      Jurisdiction: Nigeria

Judgement delivered by Odunowo J.

Retrospective Law — The court had to consider whether a copyright infringement act that occurred before the 1988 Act came into force should be instituted or decided under the Copyright Act of 1988.

The Court relied specifically on Section 2 (1) of the 5th Schedule of the 1988 Act which states:

“(1) Subject to this paragraph, proceedings under section 25 of this Act for infringement of copyright may be taken notwithstanding that the alleged infringement occurred before the commencement of this Act.”

The Court interpreted the provision to mean an infringement committed before 1988 would be deemed to have been committed under 1988 Act. The Court per Odunowo J., showing his aversion to retrospective law referred to Wright J. in Re Athlumney (1898) 2 QB 547 at 551 where it was stated:

Perhaps no rule of constitution is more firmly established than this – that a retrospective operation is not to be given to a statute so as to impair an existing right or obligation, otherwise than as regards a matter of procedure, unless that effect cannot be avoided without doing violence to the language of the enactment If the enactment is expressed in language which is fairly capable of either interpretation, it ought to be considered as prospective only”.

The court held that the retrospective effect applied only to proceeding under Section 25 and not any other provisions of the Act.

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