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On Satellite Television Rebroadcast – Piracy and The Law in Nigeria
The growth of the direct-to-home (DTH) satellite television industry has been well documented globally. Nigeria is certainly one of the countries that can see such growth and there are at least four major competing satellite television service providers in the Nigerian market. In addition, there is a small but growing number of satellite television enthusiasts who seek available opportunities to watch satellite television broadcasts without a subscription. Generally, a large part of the population has a misconception that satellite television is automatically equivalent to subscription television, ignoring the fact that free-to-air (FTA) broadcasts are widely available without subscription. However, it should also be noted that some enthusiasts wander beyond normal FTA television into areas bordering on illegality, depending on the situation, using some satellite receivers with modified software to watch encrypted content without a subscription.
The issue of legality relating to satellite television transmission and reception in Nigeria is currently in the light of litigation before Nigerian courts involving some DTH operators in the market and various other parties, particularly some cable television service providers. Typically, a DTH operator pays top dollar for premium content – English Premier League (EPL) football is a prime example – and seeks to protect its revenue stream by avoiding or restricting its revenue as a result of the activities of broadcasters. Same content DTH independently. This is especially so where DTH operators have paid for exclusive rights. Transmission, independent of the DTH operator, is usually done by some cable service operator who usually receives the content via satellite and retransmits it via cable to their own subscribers for a fee. In this context, the main legal issue is whether those who distribute such content independently of the DTH operator have the legal right to do so. A case in Nigerian courts between Hi-Media (the operator of HiTV) and CTL (a cable service provider) is typical of the situation depicted here.
Clearly, where encrypted satellite signals are received from the DTH operator’s facilities with exclusive domestic rights and re-distributed for a fee without the DTH operator’s authorization or consent, the retransmission is likely an illegal infringement of their intellectual property rights. DTH operator. However, Nigerian law is not entirely clear on the question of the legality of retransmission of satellite signals in Nigeria where the signals are transmitted from outside the country of reception, by operators who do not have domestic broadcasting rights and, in particular, where the signals are transmitted FTA without encryption. This situation is unfolding in Nigeria with recent complaints by some Middle East and North Africa (MENA) DTH operators, notably Orbit Showtime, to Nigerian authorities about the retransmission of their signals by some cable service operators in Nigeria. In fact, the issue of retransmission of FTA signals is a continuing issue of controversy and legal uncertainty in other countries, particularly in Europe. For example, there was a recent crack-down on ‘illegal’ broadcasters in Spain. However, while the focus seems to be on operators retransmitting encrypted content without crack-down authorization, it appears that operators who retransmit FTA signals are largely able to continue their operations as long as they are otherwise legally compliant. such as basic licensing requirements and tax obligations.
With regard to the situation in Nigeria, the issues ultimately turn to questions of interpretation and application of the Nigerian common law and the amendment of several Nigerian laws, including the Copyright Act. It appears clear that the courts will rule that domestic rights holders of certain content (exclusive rights in the case of EPL football) are able to challenge and prevent any rebroadcast of their content or signals without authorization. It is a different matter if the transmission signal for the same material is received from a different source. E.g. A foreign broadcaster of EPL football against a domestic rights holder. Nevertheless, in such cases a domestic rights holder with exclusive rights may be able to successfully rely on the exclusivity of its own rights, from the source from which the re-broadcaster received the signal. Potentially, foreign rights holders may also sue for infringement of their own intellectual property rights.
The least clear legal situation relates to the rebroadcast of FTA material broadcast or originating in a foreign country into Nigeria. From a broader perspective, there are always at least two views of this situation. First, the view exists that as long as the domestic re-broadcaster has the appropriate broadcast license and is otherwise in compliance with other relevant laws, rebroadcasting of FTA material is acceptable. Some argue that this explains the activities of some operators in some European countries e.g. Spain, Switzerland, etc., where rebroadcasting of signals originating from another country, particularly the United Kingdom, is a well-known phenomenon. Another view is that rebroadcasting FTA material without the authorization of the (foreign) origin should always be Illegal if not already so. Obviously, rebroadcasting involves leveraging the promoter’s intellectual property but other factors are also taken into account such as the promoter itself may be geographically restricted in terms of its broadcasting rights and advertising may be targeted to a particular country.
It is held that the ongoing litigation before the Nigerian courts does not directly touch on the question of rebroadcasting in Nigeria of FTA signals originating abroad. It is hoped that the Nigerian courts will clarify the matter at the earliest opportunity that arises.
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#Satellite #Television #Rebroadcast #Piracy #Law #Nigeria