On 2 May 2019, the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court in Nigeria delivered its judgment in Suit No. FHC/L/ CS/740/2017 Raconteur Productions Limited v. Dioni Visions Entertainment Limited and Others (‘Raconteur’). This was a claim for copyright infringement of a screenplay, and concerned what constituted sufficient proof of an alleged infringer’s access to such screenplay and evidence of substantial similarities under Nigeria’s Copyright Act.
The plaintiff did not produce physical or documentary evidence of its screenplay alleged to have been infringed. For this reason, the Court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims and held that there was no basis to consider the questions of whether the plaintiff had copyright in any screenplay; whether the defendant had access to the plaintiff’s screenplay; and whether there were substantial similarities between the plaintiff’s work and that of the defendant.
This article explores the practical implications and lessons from this case for copyright law and practice, both for legal practitioners and the film industry, especially in the digital era. It finds that the decision in Raconteur and the circumstances of the case provide pointers for screenwriters seeking to procure remuneration and copyright protection; receive credit or attribution as well as funding for the co-production of cinematograph films, embodying their screenplays as distinct, protected works. It argues for a nuanced adoption of applicable lessons from various jurisdictions such as South Africa, the UK and the US.Business Law Review