Alleged Copyright Infringement: Court Reserves Judgment in NUC, ZAIN’s Appeal

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal yesterday reserved judgment in the appeal filed by the National Universities Commission (NUC) and Zain Nigeria Limited (now Airtel) against the judgment of a Federal High Court in Abuja.

The appeal is seeking to set aside the guilty verdict passed on the appellants by the lower court as well as the subsequent N703 million fine for allegedly infringing on the property rights of the plaintiff/respondent.

The Federal High Court judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, had in May last year slammed a whopping sum of N703 million fine against NUC and Zain for infringing on the copyright of a media outfit, TV Xtra Production.

Chief Executive Officer of TV Xtra Production and General Editor of Arise News, Mr. Christian Ogodo had accused both the NUC and Zain of airing a quiz programme, which he designed and registered as the ‘University Challenge’, with the National Copyrights Commission (NCC).

In his judgment, Ekwo found the defendants guilty of violating the rights of the plaintiff and fined them accordingly.

Displeased with the lower court’s decision, NUC and Zain approached the Court of Appeal praying it to reverse the judgment to their favour.

Counsel to the NUC, Mr. Solomon Akuna, informed the appellate court that they were denied fair hearing as they were not served with relevant hearing notices.

His claim was punctured by respondent’s lawyer, Uju Azuch, who filed additional records of appeal showing that the series of hearing notices were served on the appellant.

In its own appeal, Zain argued that TV Xtra is not the original owner of the programme.

NUC and Zain, therefore, urged the court to set aside the lower court’s decision and free them from the charge.

After listening to the submissions of counsel in the matter, Justice Stephen Adah, who led a three-man panel, announced that judgment is reserved to a date that will be communicated to parties in the suit.