⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Nigeria Copyright Commission & Ors v. Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Limited Gte & Ors (2016) – CA
by NSA PaulPipAr
– Arrest for offence under copyright Act;
– Copyright Inspector;
– Human right;
1. NIGERIA COPYRIGHT COMMISSION;
2. DIRECTOR GENERAL, NIGERIA COPYRIGHT COMMISSION;
3. MR. AMODU AUGUSTINE ALEWU (Director, Nigeria Copyright Commission);
4. MR. MATTHEW OJO;
5. INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE;
1. MUSICAL COPYRIGHT SOCIETY OF NIGERIA LIMITED GTE
2. MR. HALIM MUHAMMED
3. MISS NJOKU GLADYS
4. MR. OLUKAYODE A JAYI
5. MISS OMOLARI BANJO
6. MR. YUSUF BENSON
7. MR. LOIUS BASSEY UDOH
8. MR. MAYO AYILARAN
Court of Appeal
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Yargata Byenchit Nimpar, J.C.A.
* FOR THE APPELLANT
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
The trial court granted the reliefs of the respondents (as Applicants in the lower court) which bordered on infringements of the 2nd – 8th respondents rights. And, the seizure of the 1st respondent properties, inter alia.
The trial Court after due consideration granted the application and held thus: “On the whole, I agree that the Copyrights Act has endowed its inspectors to carry out the burden of enforcing the provisions of the Act, they however, also have the responsibility to carry out such burden with care and trust for the citizenry. They must not get intoxicated by enormous powers made available to them by law for its own cause and in the benefit of its citizens. The arrest, detention and seizure of the properties of the Applicants lacked semblance of Legal justification. I hereby declare that the arrest and detention as unlawful and also grant the following reliefs sought by the Applicants a, b, c and f.”
The Appellants aggrieved with the said ruling has appealed.
The Respondents filed a Notice of cross appeal on the 20/5/13 disclosing two grounds of appeal.
1. Whether a Copyright Inspector can arrest any person who he reasonably suspects of having committed an offence under the Copyright Act or seize documents and materials in proof of such offence without warrant from Court of law.
2. Whether the trial Court could order the release of all documents seized from the respondents by the Appellant in course of their investigation while the criminal charges filed against the Respondent was still pending in the same Court and the appellants have indicated that the materials seized would be used in proof of the criminal allegation.
3. Whether the trial Court was right in holding that the activities of the respondent was legal.
4. Whether the trial Court has sufficient evidence to hold that the Appellants breached the Respondents fundamental rights by continued detention, harassment and intimidation, threat and torture.
1. Whether the lower Court erred in allow for failure to award damages or give reasons for declining same despite agreeing with all the issues as formulated by the Respondents respecting the breach of their fundamental rights.
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
[APPEAL: ALLOWED, 50,000N COST AGAINST THE RESPONDENTS]
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE APPELLANTS BUT AGAINST THE RESPONDENTS.
i. I agree with the Appellants that if the legislators wanted further directions on how the powers of the 1st Appellant and its appointed inspectors were to be exercised it would have made such provisions very clear. There is no provision stating that the 1st Appellant must get a warrant before effecting an arrest or entering into a premises, it has reasonable belief that activities contrary to the Act are going on in such premises.
ii. It is trite from the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act that certain situations allow for arrest without warrant. I wish to add that even ordinary citizens can arrest persons who commit offences in their presence, see Section 12 of the Criminal Procedure Act. I therefore do not agree that the 1st Appellant’s inspectors cannot arrest without warrant. Section 38 of the Copyright’s Act does not also infringe on the Constitution.
Furthermore, the Copyrights Act did not also refer to the Criminal Procedure Act (C.P.A.) but even if the C.P.A. is of general application, the Copyright Act is a specific provision in which case it excludes the general provision.
2. ISSUE 2 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE APPELLANTS BUT AGAINST THE RESPONDENTS.
i. In this case, charges were even filed and are pending. How then could a Court reconcile that position by making an order that the materials confiscated from the offender be returned while charges are still pending? It was a technical victory for the Respondents or an order of subtle acquittal even before the completion of trial because the evidence needed in prosecuting the Respondents would have disappeared. Furthermore, criminal trial was pending before the same Court. This Court having found that the trial Court erred in its finding that the rights of the Respondents were breached, the order for the return of the materials cannot stand and it is hereby set aside. This issue is resolved in favour of the Appellants.
3. ISSUE 3 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE APPELLANTS BUT AGAINST THE RESPONDENTS.
i. A collecting society must seek and obtain approval to operate as such. The Respondent was found to be a collecting society and therefore required approval to operate. Having been caught by the operation of the said Section, the Respondents without approval cannot have any rights that can be enforced in a Court of law. Their action therefore could not have been legitimate and consequently judgment should not have been entered in their favour. They lacked the legal standing while in default to enforce any right. Consequently, the Respondents are bound to comply with Section 39 of the Copyrights Act and indeed the said Section is not unconstitutional as held in the judgment of COMPACT DISC TECHNOLOGIES v. M.C.S.N. supra. That position is settled and I have no reason to depart from it.
4. ISSUE 4 WAS DECLARED AS ACADEMIC, AND WAS NOT PROCEEDED INTO.
i. Having resolved all the said 3 issues in favour of the Appellants, there is no wisdom in proceeding with this issue. The position or status of the Respondents is very obvious so as to make the resolution of the 4th issue academic. It will be of no practical value to the parties. Courts are enjoined to avoid dwelling on academic issues; see C.P.C. v. I.N.E.C. (2011) LPELR-8257 where the Apex Court on academic issue held: “A suit is academic where it is merely theoretical, makes empty sound and of no practical utilitarian value to the plaintiff even if judgment is given in his favour…an academic issue or question is one which does not require any answer or adjudication because it is not necessary…”
[CROSS-APPEAL: DISMISSED, WITH 50,000N COST AGAINST THE CROSS-APPELLANT]
The Court of Appeal stated in regards the cross appeal that: “Being in breach of the law, it cannot exercise the rights of a collecting society which includes suing for any breach of its rights and also lacked the right to claim for compensation for breach of a right.”
S. 38(1)&(2)&(5) Copyright Right Act LFN 2004;
S. 10 & 107 Criminal Procedure Act;
S. 40 & 44 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999;
⦿ SOME PROVISION(S)
Section 38(5) of the Copyright Act provides as follows: “A copyright Inspector shall have all the powers, rights and privileges of a police officer as defined under the Police Act and under any other relevant enactment pertaining to the investigation, prosecution of defence of a civil or criminal matter under this act.”
⦿ RELEVANT CASE(S)
NDOMA EGBA v CHUKWUOGOR & ORS (2004) LPELR-1974 on interpretation of statutes held thus: “It is the law that the literal rule is the golden rule method of interpretation of a statute are plain and unambiguous. It is a fundamental rule that such words should be given their ordinary plain meaning. It is not in such circumstances permissible to refrain from its meaning, even though it gives unreasonable or unfair result, and to go outside what the words themselves actually convey, in an attempt to consider what other things they ought to be capable of meaning.”
⦿ CASE(S) RELATED
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
It is not the function of the Court to sympathize with a party in the interpretation of a statute. – Nimpar, JCA. Copyright v. GTE (2016)
An offender cannot resist arrest because he is guaranteed some rights under the Constitution of this country. Those rights are guaranteed to those who are law abiding. It is reciprocal, a law-abiding citizen enjoys all those rights while anybody that breaks the law will have those rights suspended. – Nimpar, JCA. Copyright v. GTE (2016)
Persons who are disobedient to the law cannot use the same instrument to its advantage. – Nimpar, JCA. Copyright v. GTE (2016)
The rule of the thumb in adjudicatory procedure is that a Court is under a bounden duty to pronounce on all issues presented for resolution. See A.G. LEVENTIS NIG PLC v. AKPU (2007) LPELR-5 (SC). – Nimpar, JCA. Copyright v. GTE (2016)
With respect to arrest without warrant, a copyright inspector in whose presence a copyright offence is committed can arrest the offender on the spot without a warrant. Or where the copyright inspector is in hot pursuit of an infringer of copyright and has caught up with him, an arrest of the infringer could be done by the copyright inspector without a warrant. – IKYEGH, JCA. Copyright v. GTE (2016)