Since news broke about the Omoni Oboli copyright infringement saga, there have been reactions.
Screenwriter, Naz Onuzo who has worked with Actress, Omoni Oboli, shares his 2 kobo.
So in 2017 when the whole Okafor’s Law case jumped off I wrote a blogpost on the matter — here
That post was based on the mistaken belief that Dioni Visions (Omoni) actually received Jude Idada’s script after they paid him. As a result I thought the argument in question was about whether it was “work for hire” gone wrong and whether the contract they signed inadvertently conferred copyright on him.
However apparently that was not the case. He never submitted the script to them. The case was apparently that Dioni Visions was accused of illegally obtaining Jude’s script from a third party and adapting it to make the film Okafor’s Law.
I was actually confused when I heard that. Basically the accusation was rather than Dioni Visions develop the idea they initially contracted Jude Idada to write themselves, they waited for him to complete the idea, sell it to another party [which is a whole other ethical can of worms that I will address later] and then illegally obtain it.
I didn’t see how Jude and his new producer would win that case, but this is Nigeria after all. However with the court ruling, I think that my understanding of the case was spot on. What the hell were they thinking?
Here is the gist of the Judgement given by Hon. Justice Buba of the Federal High Court [being a court case this is public information — etc etc].
“His Lordship began his Judgement by carefully detailing the different versions of the facts of the case as submitted by each of the parties according to their narration of events leading to the suit. Thereafter he laid out the argument of each Party as well as details of the trial proceedings. He then focused on the issues distilled for determination noting that the 3 parties had raised the same issues for determination, the sum of which are:
- Whether the Plaintiff [Raconteur] has proved its claims against the Defendants [Dioni Visions & Film One] for Copyright Infringement;
- Whether the Plaintiff is entitled to the reliefs sought by its claims.
With regards to issue 1, His Lordship held that the Plaintiff had correctly defined the meaning of Copyright Infringement and its scope and he recognized this as the center of gravity of the case and the diameter with which the circumference of the case would be determined.
His Lordship noted that he had reviewed the position of the law side by side the arguments raised in pleadings by the parties and all evidence placed before the court but could not find any evidence of copyright infringement claimed by the Plaintiff. He further noted that no matter how lengthy and eloquent arguments are, the position of the law remains that “no amount of advocacy can take the place of evidence”.
His Lordship went on to highlight the fact that the Plaintiff witnesses had admitted the following under cross examination:
- Jude Idada, the 1st Defendant and her husband were friends
- Jude Idada was informed about the concept of Okafor’s Law by the 1st Defendant & her husband and he was later invited to their house to discuss the idea of making a screenplay out of the concept
- At the meeting, scenes or the movie were shared and discussed
- Jude Idada was engaged as a professional writer for a fee of N750,000
- He never shared the script with the 1st Defendant and her husband
- the concept/idea of the story “Okafor’s Law” originated only after the Plaintiff had discussed in confidence with the 1st Defendant & her husband
His Lordship noted that the above admissions were not challenged by the Plaintiff at the trial hence the Court was bound to act on them.
He queried how a man who was invited to write a script for a fee, who claimed his laptop was stolen and delayed completion of the script, could turn around to claim ownership of a copyright capable of being infringed.
His Lordship held that the arguments of the Defendants (to the effect that the Plaintiff had no copyright in the first instance) could not be faulted. He noted that the Defendants’ arguments not only represented the true position of the law but were also founded in evidence before the court. He held that in absence of any evidence, the issue of copyright ownership or its infringement is resolved against the Plaintiff in favour of the Defendants.
The Court ultimately concluded that the case of the Plaintiff lacked merit and could not “stand the light of day”. The case was dismissed accordingly.”
The interesting thing wasn’t that the Judge basically said that because Dioni Visions never received the script there couldn’t be copyright infringement he also confirmed that you can create a “work for hire” situation via contract in Nigerian Law as he mentioned that Jude Idada was hired as a professional scriptwriter. So producers ensure that in your contracts the screenwriters [and everyone else for that matter] transfers their IP rights to you as part of the contract they sign.
Anyway now back to the other point — the point that infuriated me to no end — the actions of Jude Idada. I never understood why people were championing Jude’s side in the first place. This is a screenwriter who was hired to deliver a script off an idea he admitted he got from the producer. He did not pitch an original idea, he was invited to work on someone else’s concept.
Not only did he not deliver the script to the said producer, he then claimed ownership of the idea he did not originate and turned around and sold it to another producer. I’m sorry but that is very wrong in this our industry which trucks in IP and I do not understand how he is able to justify such an act and no do I understand how people who should have known better were defending him.
I am choosing to give the other producer the benefit of the doubt and assume they didn’t know the writer was peddling work that was commissioned by another producer. If it were me, I would have made different choices when I found out the provenance of the work, but to each their own.
Anyway as far as I’m concerned, justice was done. I suppose that the other production company can decide whether they want to appeal and hope for a different ruling about the origins of the IP and whether or not Dioni Visions could have written their script without having access to Jude’s script but that is truly for another day.
In closing [no pun intended], this case is an important one because it demonstrates that the legal system for IP in Nigeria works as you would expect under the rules you would expect to govern IP. The High Court case was also relatively quick — just over two years. Of course not every case will go to trial and the enforcement of IP rights leaves a lot to be desired, but the ruling and the relatively speedy resolution of the case are positives I am happy to hold on to. Aiight that’s me done.