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Asein: We must change copyright narrative in Nigeria



• Pledges Restructuring For Benefit Of Creative Industries
The new Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. John Ohireime Asein, has declared his commitment to the reconstruction and repositioning of the commission for effective regulation and development of the nation’s copyright industries.

Asein made this declaration at a management meeting upon his assumption of office at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja on Thursday.

Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Justice and Solicitor-General of the Federation, Mr. Dayo Apata SAN, who conveyed the President’s approval in a letter dated January 15, 2019 with Ref. No. MT:4511/T/106, stated that the appointment of Asein for an initial four-year tenure took effect from January 8, 2019.

The former Acting Director-General, Mr. Kohol, in his remarks, underscored the need for all hands to be on deck to move the commission forward.

He noted the need to revive some laudable projects that earlier featured in the commission’s programmes.

Asein, who had reported at the commission’s headquarters on January 16, called for dedication and team work among the management and staff of the copyright agency.

He believes that the starting for NCC is to address its own challenges in order to better serve the creative industries and harness their potentials for national development. Some of the immediate challenges facing the administration of copyright in Nigeria are:
• Weak infrastructure, low staff morale and inadequate skills sets.
• Low level of public awareness on the importance of copyright and the creative industries.
• Non-prioritisation of the creative industries as a component of the national economic agenda and inadequate policy and legal framework.
• Inefficient rights management and enforcement systems.
• Weak enforcement in the face of growing on/offline piracy and absence of a public-private synergy in confronting it.
• Fragmentation in the copyright industries and lack of synergy with the Commission.
• Dwindling international confidence in the Nigerian copyright system.

The Director-General indicated that the commission under his watch would develop a comprehensive intervention strategy that would impact positively on every sector of the creative industries.

The commission must also review its policies to deploy the copyright system as a veritable support for the value chain in all creative industries. “To address budgetary its constraints, it would need to encourage the industries to subscribe to more self-regulation, payment for some basic regulatory services and stakeholder financing of some of its programmes and activities,” he had said in the paper.

“In order to address the challenges, it is imperative that the Nigerian Copyright Commission (as the lead agency in the copyright sector) should be repositioned and its staff reoriented for better service delivery and as catalyst for economic growth,” he noted in a paper on repositioning the copyright commission.

He assured that the Commission would be proactive in the execution of its mandate under the Nigerian Copyright Act CAP C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, adding that areas of its mandate like the visual arts and others which have not received sufficient attention would be covered.

“We must change the copyright narrative in Nigeria positively to impact the copyright-based industries to the benefit of all copyright stakeholders,” he stated.

He stressed the need for a cohesive management that would deliver on the mandate of the commission, adding that staff discipline, manpower development and institutional strengthening wound be prioritised.

According to Asein, in different parts of the world, the copyright-based industries contribute as much as 5 to 10 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of countries. For a country like Nigeria, with its thriving film and music industries, the figures should be around 7.5 per cent making it a major player in the new knowledge-driven economy.

He believes a good copyright system is one that provides a sustainable framework for the production, distribution, use, management of works for the benefit of the creative industries and the larger society.

“To achieve this, the system must be efficient and well adapted to the needs of specific industries. Rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, the agency must therefore deploy simple, but appropriate solutions that are industry specific and user-friendly,” he had asserted.

The new DG, no doubts, will need to address the welfare and well-being of staff; invest in human capital development, retrain, retool, sharpen skills and redeploy staff for efficiency.

There is also need to encourage partnerships with state governments for maximum impact, as well as introduce industry supported anti-piracy fund to support enforcement activities and ease the pressure on government.

Stakeholders in the culture, creative industry believe there is need for collaboration so as develop a comprehensive strategy for a functional copyright system.

As a strategy to evolve a new copyrighting system, they clamour for industry-driven awareness and education programmes and training for SMEs to help maximise their potentials for the global market.

Asein, before now, was Executive Director of the Reproduction Rights Society of Nigeria (REPRONIG), the collecting society for authors and publishers of literary works.

He started his career as a lecturer at the University of Calabar in 1987, joined the Nigerian Copyright Commission in 1992 and rose to the rank of Director and pioneer Head of the Nigerian Copyright Institute.

He retired in 2016 on account of the eight-year tenure policy of government. While at the Commission, he was involved in all aspects of its mandates: general copyright administration; planning and policy formulation; regulatory and enforcement; treaty negotiations and norm setting; research, teaching and capacity building. Even in retirement he has continued to offer his expertise to the commission, serving as chairman of the technical committee on the Review of the Copyright Act and National Consultant for the WIPO-NJI Pilot Programme on Intellectual Property Training for Nigerian judges.

On the recommendation of experts from the WIPO and IFRRO, Asein was invited to resuscitate and rebuild REPRONIG, which at the time had become moribund. He accomplished the task of turning the organisation around within a year, restoring stakeholder confidence and international support.

He also brought his experience to bear in strengthening institutional linkages in the book industry, making REPRONIG a major fulcrum in that industry.

Called to the Nigerian Bar in 1985, Asein is an accomplished author, university teacher, intellectual property expert, and seasoned copyright administrator. He has served as Expert and Resource Person for WIPO, WHO-AFRO, IFRRO, ECOWAS, UNESCO and ARIPO, assisting with international norm setting legislative reforms, reorganization of IP offices, and capacity building.

His major publications include, Introduction to Nigerian Legal System (in its third edition); Nigerian Copyright Law and Practice (in its third edition); A Decade of Nigerian Copyright Law; and the chapter on Nigeria in Silke Von Lewinski’s Copyright Throughout the World.

With his vast knowledge of the copyright system, Asein understands how copyright can be used as a tool for job and wealth creation; revenue generation; international trade; and strategic national development. A foundation staff of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, he knows the expectations of stakeholders and how to reposition the agency for grater efficiency as an industry catalyst.

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