Wednesday, 14 January 2009

English Premier League Causes Upset in Nigerian Broadcasting

Last week, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) raided the Calabar office of Multimesh Communications, a  Nigerian telecommunications company.  The raid was conducted on the basis of a complaint lodged by HiTV claiming that Multimesh was pirating HiTV's broadcasts of English Premier League games.

Both  Multimesh and HiTV claim their respective behaviors are appropriate.  Multimesh asserts that it has secured and paid for a license from HiTV to broadcast English Premier League games in two areas of the country, "South South and South East."  Therefore, its broadcasting of games in these areas was not piracy.  HiTV, however, claims that negotiations were only entered for a license to rebroadcast in the city of Port Harcourt and that those negotiations fell through before a license was issued.  Since no license was issued, the broadcasts were illegal and the raid was justified.

Multimesh has petitioned the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice in the matter.  The company feels that the NCC and HiTV are in cahoots to eliminate them from the market, and it wants the government to step-in and stop the duo from achieving this outcome.  Multimesh would also like the return of its equipment that was confiscated in the raid.

Whether either the Attorney General or the Minister of Justice (who oversees the NCC) will step-in on behalf of Multimesh is not clear yet.  It is also not clear if the NCC will be bringing its own case against Multimesh on behalf of HiTV for infringement.  It appears that a major question in this case will be: did Multimesh and HiTV have an agreement?  The role of funds deposited by Multimesh into HiTV's accounts may play a large role in determining if as agreement in fact existed.  (Read the whole news report from The Vanguard here.)

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