The Federal High Court in Lagos has sentenced a bookseller, Anthony Okojie, two years’ imprisonment for selling pirated books.
Justice Musa Kurya convicted Okojie of the one count pressed against him by the Nigeria Copyright Commission in Suit No. FHC/L/429c/2013.
The judge, in a copy of the judgment delivered in January 2018 but obtained by our correspondent on Tuesday, said he convicted Okojie because the NCC proved the allegations against him beyond reasonable doubt, adding that the convict himself admitted selling pirated books.
The judge noted that while the NCC called three witnesses to prove its case, Okojie did not bother to call any witness in his own defence even after the court dismissed the no-case submission he filed following the closure of the prosecution’s case.
The NCC had arrested Okojie on June 21, 2013 following a petition against him by the Nigeria Bible Society, which accused him of offering 376 pirated books for sale at his Green House shop, located at Fakoya Junction, Akowonjo, Lagos.
The NCC told the court that the bookseller violated Section 20(2) of the Copyright Act Cap C28, LFN 2004.
But Okojie, upon his arraignment on February 10, 2014, pleaded not guilty to the one count pressed against him.
In the judgment, Justice Kurya noted that in defending Okojie, his lawyer argued that he did no wrong since the pirated books found in his possession were authored by foreigners.
The defence counsel argued that his client committed no crime because there was no Nigerian law protecting the copyright of foreign books.
According to the judge, the defence counsel, citing Section 41 of the Copyright Act, argued that “the minister” ought to have, “by gazette, extended reciprocal to books of foreign origin” but “no such law was gazetted.”
He, therefore, urged the judge to discharge and acquit his client.
However, the prosecutor countered him by citing Section 5(1)(b) of the Copyright Act, stating that copyright shall be conferred on any work “first published in a country which is a party to an obligation or other international agreements to which Nigeria is a party.”
In his judgment, Justice Kurya said Okojie was guilty, stressing that ignorance could not be an excuse to violate the law.
“Consequently, I hereby find the accused guilty as charged and convict him accordingly,” the judge said.
Following an allocutus by the defence counsel, Justice Kurya sentenced Okojie to two years’ imprisonment, holding that the prison term would read from June 21, 2013 when he was arrested.
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