A Federal High Court in Abuja, in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/680/2008, has ordered the National Universities Commission (NUC) and Airtel (previously Zain Nigeria Limted) to pay TV Xtra Production N703m as damages for copyright infringement.
Justice Inyang Ekwo in his judgement held that the first and second defendants’ were guilty of using the work of the plaintiff without appropriate permission thereby breaching the plaintiff’s copyright.
The suit was filed after the Chief Executive Officer of TV Xtra Production and General Editor, Arise News, Christian Ojorovwu Ogodo, had designed and registered a quiz program titled ‘University Challenge’ with the NUC. According to the plaintiff, the Managing Director had registered the program with the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) and subsequently granted the plaintiff rights via a power of attorney. He approached the NUC (the first defendant) with a proposal for endorsement of the program and for potential collaboration in the production of the same in order to broadcast on Nigerian television stations. A few weeks later the NUC approved a similar program in favor of one Natives Filmworks Ltd.
The plaintiff’s case against the Zain Nigeria Ltd (the second defendant) is that they developed a similar program called “Zain African Challenge” and the NUC endorsed same.
In its defence, the second defendant argued that TV Xtra was not the original owner of the program, explaining that the concept was taken from a similar program, the British Universities Challenge. The second defendant did not file any form of defense.
But Justice Ekwo ruled that the defendants misunderstood the case of the plaintiff, who is seeking remedy for his work not in any other part of the world, but registered in Nigeria and which existed at the time it was aired in the country.
He added that airing the program 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.
The law says that a work in Nigeria is the exclusive right of the owner to control its reproduction in any material form and making adaptations of the work going by Section 6(1) (a) (1) and 8 of the Copyright Act.
“I find that the case of the plaintiff succeeds on the merit I make an order entering judgement on the terms of the claims,” he said.
When the suit was originally filed in 2009, the plaintiff demanded N500m as special damages for the infringement. It is also demanded N200m as general damages for airing the program titled: ‘Zain African Challenge’ in Nigerian televisions, which infringed on its rights and another N3m as general cost of the suit. TV Xtra Production also demanded an order of the court compelling the NUC, to approve the program.