Copyright controversy over movie `Okafor’s Law’

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A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday ordered advance service of court processes in a suit brought against Nollywood producer, Omoni Oboli, over copyright infringement of the movie, “Okafor’s Law”.

Justice Ibrahim Buba, who gave the order, said advance copies of processes should be served on both counsel by email so as to ensure that justice was achieved in good time.

Buba had on March 24, granted an interim order, stopping the premiere and release of “Okafor’s Law” scheduled for March 24.

The ex parte order consequently halted the planned premiere of “Okafor’s Law” at the IMAX Cinema in Lagos.

The judge issued the orders following an exparte motion filed by a company — Raconteur Production Ltd on behalf of a Canada-based script writer, Mr Jude Idada, seeking same reliefs.

Joined as defendants in the suit are Dioni Visions Entertainment Ltd, Omoni Oboli, and The Filmone Ltd.

The court had issued the orders, suspending the release and launch of the film in any movie theatre or cinema house on March 31 pending the determination of a motion on notice before the court.

The judge had also issued an Anton piller Order (order to enter and seize) to seize all copies, materials, projections or infringing materials, relating to the subject matter.

At the resumed hearing of the motion on notice on Wednesday, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Augustine Alegeh (SAN), announced appearance for the the first and second defendants (Dioni Ltd and Oboli).

In the same vein, Mr Yomi Awotunde, announced appearance for the third defendant (Filmone), while Mrs O. Otudor appeared for the plaintiff.

Addressing the court, Otudor said she had received the counter-affidavit for the first and second defendants, but had yet to receive any processes from the third defendant.

She told the court that counsel to the first and second defendant had just served their counter-affidavit on her in the courtroom, adding that she required time to study and respond to it.

She, therefore, urged the court to grant more time to allow the plaintiff to file a reply.

On his part, Alegeh asked the court to order a speedy hearing of the motion on the grounds that the ex parte order had stalled the premiering of the film on March 24.

He noted that the movie had been premiered in Toronto and Stockholm in 2016, adding that he launch had been fixed for March 31 (Friday), and so, a speedy hearing of the motion on notice would be appropriate.

In a short ruling, Justice Buba abridged the time for hearing of the motion on notice to March 30, adding that he was concerned with achieving justice.

He directed plaintiff”s counsel to ensure that advance copies of court processes were served on the defence by email to ensure that the motion is heard without hindrances.

He, therefore, fixed March 30 for hearing of the motion by 10.00 am.

Idada  claimed that “Okafor’s Law” is his intellectual property, and accused Oboli of copyright infringement.

He said she had stolen his story idea for the movie in September 2016, adding that Oboli took the work he had done regarding “Okafor’s Law”, and developed it without giving him due credit.

He avers that the producer went ahead to set March 31 as a release date for the movie in spite of a demand letter sent to her as well as a copyright infringement suit instituted.

Meanwhile, in a counter-affidavit deposed to on behalf of Dioni Visions Ltd by one Tomi Adeoye, she avers that sometime in 2014, the second defendant (Omoni Oboli) came up with the story idea of “Okafor’s Law”.

She explained that “Okafor’s Law” is a principle in which ex-lovers could always rekindle their love or relationship, even after they are married to other partners.

She said in accordance with Nigerian Law both Oboli and her company (Dioni Visions) proceeded to register the film with the National Film and Video Censors Board.

She said having secured their legal right to the said film, they contracted Jude Idada to write the screen play for a fee of N750,000 although no written contract was executed.

According to the deponent, Oboli later had a meeting with Idada, where she revealed to him the story idea and concept of “Okafor’s Law” to enable him to have a good grasp of the subject for a proper development of the screen play.

She also averred that when Idada was contacted thereafter, he claimed that the work he had done on the film was lost when his computer was stolen in Uganda, and promised to re-write the screenplay.

The deponent averred that when several attempts to reach Idada for the script failed, they decided to write the screen play and thereafter produce the movie — Okafor’s Law.

The defendant, therefore, avers that Jude Idada is not the owner of the story and idea of “Okafor’s Law, and does not posses any copyright in respect of same.

“Okafor’s Law” stars are Richard Mofe Damijo, Toyin Aimakhu, Blossom Chukwujekwu, Ken Erics, Yvonne Jegede, Halima Abubakar, Gabriel Afolayan, Funke Bucknor among other Nollywood actors and actresses.

Oboli is a popular Nollywood Producer, actress, Director and script writer.

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