Five men were, on Thursday, arraigned by the police at the Federal High Court in Lagos for allegedly pirating some Nollywood movies.
The suspects, David Chukwudi, Austin Igboukwu, Ugochukwu Ukwuagu, Uchechukwu Chukwuma and Ndu Celestine, were arrested by a special task force set up by the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) at the Alaba International Market, Lagos, during an operation recently.
Some of the titles recovered during the operation, which have been presented as evidences include Jennifer’s Diary, The Wedding Party, Lord of War, The Village War, My Kids and I, What I Want, and Osinachi My Wife among others.
The defendants were charged with 11 counts bordering on copyright infringement and use of premises to promote piracy.
It was a delight for several Nollywood stakeholders who stormed the court in solidarity with the NFVCB, having suffered loss from film productions due to the activities of pirates.
Some of the faces spotted in court include Ralph Nwadike, President of Association of Movie Producers, filmmaker Lancelot Imasuen, film marketer Nobert Ajaegbu, a member of the NFVCB task force who is also on the prosecution counsel, and veteran filmmaker Chief Eddie Ugboma among others.
Igboukwu and Ukwuagwu were charged with 13 counts of copyright infringement.
In the first charge, prosecuting counsel Mr K.J Oluwole from the Police Force Headquarters, alleged that Chukwudi committed the offence on August 14 at the Alaba International Market.
He was alleged to have forged packets of uncensored Nollywood films for illegal distribution.
Chukwudi was also said to have engaged in the unauthorised recording of the works, as well as utilising his business premises for copyright infringement.
He pleaded not guilty.
Justice Muslim Hassan ordered his remand in prison custody and adjourned until December 8 for hearing of his bail application as well as commencement of trial.
Igboukwu and Ukwuagwu were charged with 13 counts bordering on similar offence allegedly committed on August 12 at a shop in Alaba International market. They also pleaded not guilty.
They allegedly packed Proposal of Arms, Sword of Justice, Brave Medium, Wedding Party, The King’s Wealth, A Trip to Jamaica, among others, for distribution without authorisation.
The prosecution said they allegedly packaged the works said to be worth millions of naira, for illegal exhibition and distribution.
The alleged offence contravenes Section 58 of the National Films and Video Censors Board Act, 2004, as well as Section 20 of the Copyright Act, Cap 28, Laws of The Federation, 2004.
Justice Hassan also adjourned until December 8 for trial and hearing of the bail application.
The defendants are to be remanded in prison custody until their bail application is determined.
Filmmakers are however expecting more support from stakeholders on the success of the litigation.
While Imasuen lamented the low turn out of filmmakers in court, Ajaegbu is worried that the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) appears unperturbed by the incident.
He said: “My worry remains that it is only the DG of the National Films and Video Censors Board that seems committed to the sanity of the industry. He has been in court all day, committing his finances. Where is the Copyright Commission? Why are they reluctant to prosecute these criminals? I suggest that the guild heads should write to them to prosecute these guys…”
The Executive Director of the NFVCB, Adedayo Thomas, who led other staff of the agency to witness the hearing, noted that there is a new development to the case, as one of the suspects is suing the NFVCB for human rights infringement, claiming he has been unlawfully detained.
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