Media Company Defeats Airtel, NUC In Court As It's Awarded N703m In Damages

Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday ordered the National Universities Commission (NUC) and Zain Nigeria Ltd (now Airtel) to pay N703 million in damages to a media company, TV Xtra Production for copyright infringement.

Delivering judgment, Justice Ekwo, held that the actions of the defendants contravened the Copyright Act.

TV Xtra Production’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and General Editor Arise News, Christian Ogodo, had designed and registered a quiz programme, titled: “University Challenge” with the National Copyrights Commission.

However, Ogodo, was surprised to see the programme being aired on televisions by NUC and Zain four weeks after he made the presentation to the NUC.

Zain Nigeria, in its defence, contended that TV Xtra was not the original owner of the programme, explaining that the idea was picked from a similar programme, “the British Universities Challenge.”

But the judge ruled that the defendants misunderstood the case of plaintiff who was 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 Nigeria.

He added that airing the programme on African Independent Television (AIT) and Nigeria Television Authourity (NTA), without the permission of the author violated Sections 2(a) (1), 6 (1) (a) (1) and 8 of the Copyrights Act.

“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.

“I find that the case of the plaintiff succeeds on the merit i make an order entering judgement on the terms of the claims”, Ekwo said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that TV Xtra, through Festus Keyamo Chambers, had, on Dec. 18, 2009, filed the copyright infringement suit, demanding N500 million as special damages for the infringement.

It also demanded N200 million as general damages for airing the programme titled: “Zain African Challenge” in Nigerian televisions which infringed its rights.

The company, in addition, demanded the sum of N3 million as cost of the suit.

The media outfit also demanded an order of the court compelling the NUC which was the first defendant in the suit, to endorse and approve the programme called ‘University Challenge’.

The firm sought the court to issue a perpetual injunction restraining Zain Nigeria from “producing, airing, marketing or exercising any right in respect of the programme called “Zain African Challenge.” (NAN)

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