Patrick Ikwueme, a Lagos-based professional photographer, has accused Wakanow of copyright infringement.
According to Ikwueme, the Nigerian travel agency used one of his photos of the Ofala youth carnival without his consent.
Ikwueme had shot a photograph of some youths doing a circular motion around Zik Roundabount in the Onitsha area of Anambra State in 2019 during the Ofala Festival, an annual festival of the Onitsha, Ukpo, Aguleri and Nnewi people in the southeast.
The photograph captured a thrilling moment of a group of young people clad in red attire for a traditional procession, an important aspect of the festival.
HOW HE SHOT THE PHOTOGRAPH
“I was at the Ofala festival in 2019 and I captured some cinematic moments. I practice my craft under the name Owusi’s Lens and it has become the unique identifier that I inscribe on all my photographic and cinematographic creations,” Ikwueme told FIJ on Monday.
“One of the pictures I shot at the occasion stood out for me and I sent it to the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) for registration and consideration under the Nigerian Copyright Act. Consequently, the NCC certified the image vide a licence issued in my name.”
FIJ’s findings showed that the material was duly registered by the NCC and assigned a registration number alongside other details of the photo artist.
‘HOW WAKANOW USED MY WORK‘
Ikwueme was surprised recently when he saw the same image on the official handles of Wakanow.
“On June 8, I was surfing Twitter and accidentally stumbled on a Wakanow social media campaign made of photographic film in which the protected image was inserted. They used the ad to create public awareness about their presence in Onitsha for a promotional event,” Ikwueme said.
“Seeing this made me feel bad, wondering how someone could scoop my clearly watermarked work and make use of it without my permission. It’s very unfair and heartbreaking, especially coming from an organisation that is supposed to understand the implication of such act. So, I messaged the company. Following my message, Jeremiah-Jesu Badero, the head of marketing and brand, reached out to me and requested a meeting with me for a mutual talk.
“Prior to the meeting, Badero insisted that I involve a lawyer, and I went to the meeting unaccompanied by anyone. I met with Badero and one other staff member of WakaNow. He introduced a partnership offer into the conversation to which I did not object. Nevertheless, I insisted on resolving the primary issue at stake before discussing any partnership deal.
“He asked me what I wanted and I insisted they regularise the infringement by paying me a compensation. The meeting ended with an assurance that the company would get back to me for a mutually beneficial option.”
Before the meeting, they had told him that “we would like to have a conversation about your images and how we can partner with you for our local campaigns”.
INVOLVEMENT OF LAWYERS
The marketing head later sent him an email directing him to channel all his grievances to the company’s legal department, a development the aggrieved photographer considered a deviation from the company’s initial stance.
Understanding that he might be ineffective in dealing with the company’s legal team, he commissioned his own solicitors to relate with the company instead. Caleb Ekene Onwe, Ikwueme’s lawyer, wrote a letter of demand on June 19, demanding N50 million in compensation from WakaNow for the alleged copyright infringement.
The destination specialist acknowledged the letter by denying the allegation of infringement. WakaNow claimed it produced the advertisement material through an independent creative process.
Among other things, the company claimed the roundabout was an “official state symbol of the Anambra State government, which according to the Copyright Act, is ineligible and lacks the capacity to be copyrighted. As such, your claimed work does not not meet this threshold for copyright protection”.
WakaNow alleged that Ikwueme had passed a defamatory remark against it on social media. The company then made a counter-demand of N100,000,000 as well as an apology from the photographer.
A comparison of the characters and their positions in the picture used by WakaNow and Ikwueme’s protected picture revealed a significant correlation. FIJ observed that the details of each character as well as the skylines in the two images align.
“All I care for now is to have them respect my right over the picture and compensate for the violation,” the photographer said.
The company told FIJ via an email on Thursday that it had responded to the photographer’s lawyer. “Thank you for reaching out. Patrick Ikwueme’s lawyer has contacted us and we have provided a response accordingly,” the company said.