By Sunday Ani
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has sentenced a trader, Mr. Anthony Okojie, to two years imprisonment without an option of fine for piracy.
In the charge sheet marked FHC/L/429C/2013, Okojie was alleged to have exposed and offered for sale copies of books in which copyright subsists in various copyright owners, including the United Bible Societies, thereby committing an offence contrary to, and punishable under, Section 20(2) of the Copyright Act, C28 LFN 2004.
Counsel to the accused submitted that all the books alleged to have been pirated were of foreign origin, arguing that, as such, no crime was committed by the accused since the law does not protect such books.
He further argued that Section 41 of the Copyright Act provides that the minister shall, by gazette, extend reciprocal to books of foreign origin. “No such law was gazetted,” he submitted.
He prayed the court to discharge and acquit the accused.
After listening to arguments from both sides, the judge, Justice Musa H. Kurya, said: “I rather agree with the prosecution when he submitted that, from the proceedings, it is revealing that despite the ruling of this honorable court that the accused has a case to answer, the accused decided to close his case without calling any witness or adducing any evidence in defense of himself.
“Simply put, the accused has admitted the evidence of the prosecution against him and that he has no defence to put forward. In conclusion, I am of the view that the prosecution has proved this case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt, and I so find. Consequently, I hereby find the accused guilty as charged and convict him accordingly.”
In his ruling, Kurya said: “I have listened to the plea by the accused’s counsel. I agree that the accused may not be aware of the original and or the infringing copies. However, as the learned counsel had rightly submitted, ignorance of law is no excuse.
“Taking all into consideration, I hereby sentence the accused to two years imprisonment in the federal prisons with no option of fine. The sentence is to commence from the day of arrest.”