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Alleged piracy: Court orders parties to maintain status quo

A Lagos High court sitting on Tuesday, has ordered all parties in an alleged piracy case to maintain Status Quo ante belum.

Satellite Cable company Hi Media Group also known as HiTV had dragged a cable outfit, CTL to court over alleged piracy of its content. The matter that came up for hearing on Tuesday was the Defendant’s (CTL) application challenging the jurisdiction of the court as well as the Plaintiff’s (HiTV) application for an Interlocutory Injunction restraining the defendants and its privies from further infringing the rights of the Plaintiff.

Further to arguments from both counsels, the court decided to take both applications together and adjourned the matter to November 16, 2009 for adoption of written submissions in respect of the said applications.

However, HiTV’s counsel, O.A. Ajakpovi reiterated the fact that there has been further infringement after the court declined to grant an Interim Order against the Defendant which were all averred to in the further affidavit filed in the matter and thus, it would amount to an injustice if the Defendant was not restrained.

On being asked to confirm the position as stated above, the defendant’s counsel denied that the defendants were engaged in further infringement. Consequently, Justice A. R Mohammed  ruled that parties were to maintain the Status Quo ante belum, that is, before the infringement complained of occurred, pending the hearing and determination of the pending applications on Jurisdiction and Interlocutory Injunction. The matter stands adjourned to November 16, 2009.

This latest development may be a big relief for HiTV who had maintained that CTL had continuously infringed on its right by rebroadcasting its content especially its premium sports content, despite the allegation of piracy before a High court.

Ironically, CTL that HiTV has dragged to court over allegation of piracy is the one leading other members of a body called Association of Cable Owners in a suit against HiTV over alleged monopoly of its content, a suit HiTV described as ‘frivolous’ recently.

There has been several complaints against the activities of some cable television owners who many content owners have accused of piracy. For instance Orbit Showtime, a Dubai based company had written a letter to the Minister of Information and Communication, Prof Dora Akunyuli, alleging that some cable outfits have been pirating its content in Nigeria.

Dated September 1, and signed by Mr. Gordon Finlayson, Director of Legal, Orbit Showtime, the letter titled  The Illegal Use Of Showtime Decoders And Smartcards For Piracy Of The Barclays English Premier League Matches In Nigeria, complained bitterly about the alleged infringement on its content.

The letter read in part.“Orbit Showtime is the largest PayTV platform in the Middle East and North Africa and is the exclusive licensee in that region for the Barclays Premier League (‘Premier League’) for the 2009/2010 season. We understand that a number of cable operators (as specified below) and distributors located in various parts of Nigeria have obtained our smartcards to use for the unauthorised broadcast of the Premier League matches in Nigeria – a territory that Orbit Showtime is not licensed to operate in and has no rights to broadcast Premier League matches.”

He continued: “We understand that some television companies are currently engaging in activities to distribute unauthorised Premier League matches from Orbit Showtime subscriptions:”

“I would request that you immediately investigate such unauthorised retransmission or access of Orbit Showtime’s Premier League matches with a view to ceasing any such activities in Nigeria.”

The Minister, investigation revealed has directed that an investigation into the matter be carried out. The source said the allegations if true are capable of denting the image of Nigeria who has renewed her bid to rebrand its image before the world.


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