A photographer, Mr. Emmanuel Okolo, has filed a N120m copyright infringement suit against musician Innocent Idibia, popularly known as 2face, and wife, Annie.
The photographer sued the couple and one Mr. Anthonio Anifite before Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court in Lagos.
He alleged that the defendants made use of some photographs he took at the traditional wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Idibia in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State in 2013 without duly attributing the works to him or
acknowledging him contrary to an alleged agreement.
The photographer, who sued alongside his company, Papilonmexy Films Studios Limited, claimed that the defendants wrote ‘2faceonline.com’ across 148 out of the 355 high-resolution photographs he took at the couple’s wedding and uploaded them on 2face’s official website, thereby denying him credit and referral opportunities.
He claimed that days after the wedding, Annie called him on the telephone requesting copies of the wedding photographs and that upon sending them to her, Annie complained about the watermark of Papilomenxy studios reflecting on them.
According to the photographer, Annie later sent the 2nd defendant to negotiate with the photographer on the terms that the photographs should be released without watermarks.
The photographer claimed to have then released 355 high-resolution photographs from the wedding to Anifite free of charge on the agreement that whenever and wherever they were used, the copyright would be credited to his company.
He, however, claimed that the defendants breached the terms of the signed agreement and went ahead to write ‘2faceonline.com’ across 148 of the photographs that they uploaded on 2face’s official website.
The photographer, who described himself as “a certified film maker from the prestigious London Film Academy” and a holder of a Masters of Arts degree from Cardiff School of Creative and Cultural Industries, South Wales, United Kingdom, claimed to have suffered general and exemplary damages for which he is seeking N120m compensation from 2face, Annie and Anifite.
‘Premeditated Plan To Blackmail’
But the defendants have not only urged Justice Idris to dismiss the photographer’s suit but they also filed a counterclaim wherein they demanded N150m damages from him and his studio.
They claimed that the photographer crashed into the venue of their traditional wedding, took pictures and circulated same for commercial gains without their permission.
They claimed that he was not invited but was just “one of the numerous photographers and pseudo-professionals and artisans, who invaded the venue of the ceremonies to eke out a living for themselves without prior consultation with or the consent of the celebrants.”
They claimed that soon after their wedding, they noticed some strange versions of their wedding pictures circulating online with Papilonmexy studio watermark and after painstaking findings, they traced them to the photographer.
They claimed that upon locating the photographer and expressing their displeasure, he pleaded with them while lamenting that he was hard hit by a downturn in the still photography business and sought any future engagement with them.
They claimed that the photographer forced the photographs on them, saying he wanted to leverage on their popularity to get referrals.
They, however, claimed that they told him categorically that the only condition on which they could accept the photographs was for him to remove the watermarks of his company, which he allegedly agreed to.”
They, however, said they were shocked when after uploading the photographs, the photographer wrote a pre-litigation letter to them demanding that his watermarks be boldly inscribed across the photographs and a letter of apology.
But they claimed to have immediately pulled down the photographs because having Papilonmexy watermarks on some pictures on 2face’s official website would distort the original idea of the website.
They accused the photographer of having a premeditated plan to blackmail and extort money from them.
“The second plaintiff (Okolo), through his several guile, deceit, cunning gate-crashing and opportunistic posturing carefully planned and orchestrated the entire events leading to the institution of this suit with the express intention of embarrassing, harassing and blackmailing the first and third defendants (Annie and 2face) with a view to extorting money from them,” the further claimed in their counter-claim.
They, however, urged the judge to order Okolo and his studio to pull down all the photographs of them that the photographer had circulated.
They are also praying the court to order Okolo and his studio to “render forthwith, account as well as make full and frank disclosure of all sums and profit made by them as a result of unauthorised commercial usage” of their photographs.
They are demanding 150 million Naira damages and an order of perpetual injunction restraining Okolo and his studio from further commercialising their photographs.