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Copyright Bill to strengthen creative sector, enhance competitiveness

By Guardian Nigeria
10 April 2022   |   3:56 am
On August 19, 2019, Chairman of Senate Committee on Judiciary, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, said the country’s copyright law, needed a lot of reforms.

On August 19, 2019, Chairman of Senate Committee on Judiciary, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, said the country’s copyright law, needed a lot of reforms.

Bamidele, who spoke in Lagos at the flag off ceremony of the 30th anniversary celebration of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), urged the commission to use the platform of the Senate to bring a robust creative community that is not only successful in terms of value added to the economy, but the material comfort of intellectual property owners.

The Director-General of the NCC, John Asein, at the event, said he would carry every stakeholder along to ensure that the copyright battle is won.

Also, at the public hearing of two proposed bills for an Act to repeal the Copyright Act Cap C28 LFN 2004 and to re-enact the Copyright Act 2021 and for matters connected therewith, 2021 (SB.688) and the Executive Bill SB. 769 to replace the copyright law currently in operation by the Senate Committee on Trade and Investment jointly chaired by Senators Francis Fadahunsi and Opeyemi Bamidele, creatives, for once, were united in their demand for the copyright bills currently being considered by the National Assembly to work for creators of intellectual properties and not for the users and exploiters of their creativity.

Held on October 12, 2021, the hearing opened with an assurance by the committee to pass a law that serves the interest of creators of intellectual properties, and thereafter, the committee asked stakeholders to make their input.

The Nigerian Senate, on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, fulfilled its commitment to the creative community by passing the Bill for an Act to Repeal the Copyright Act, Cap C28 LFN, 2004 and Enact the Copyright Act to Provide for the Regulation, Protection and Administration of Copyright; and for Related Matters, as amended.

Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawal, sitting as Chairman of the Committee of the Whole, emphasised the importance of the Copyright Bill to the development of the creative industries and sustainable wealth creation in the national economy.

He took Read Chamber carefully through the 107 clauses of the Bill and its schedule, leading eventually to its passage.

The Bill was the outcome of the harmonisation carried out by the Senate Joint Committee on Trade and Investment; Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.

The Joint Committee had considered the Private Member Bill (SB 688) sponsored by Senator Mukhail A. Abiru (Lagos East Senatorial District) and the Executive Bill (SB 769) sponsored by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abubakar Abdullahi (Kebbi North Senatorial District), both of which were presented in 2021 to repeal the Copyright Act Cap C28, LFN, 2004 and to enact the Copyright Act, and for matters connected therewith.

Presenting the Report of the Joint Committee, Bamidele explained that the Bill sought to provide for a holistic review of the policy and legal framework for the effective regulation, protection and administration of copyright in Nigeria in line with global best practices.

In his words: “The overriding intents and purports of the Bill are to ensure that the Nigerian Copyright Commission, which is the statutory agency of Government saddled with the responsibilities for the promotion of the use of the copyright system, as a tool for advancing the growth of the creative industry in Nigeria, is properly repositioned and strengthened in order to harness the potentials of creativity for national development, particularly in today’s digital environment.”

Bamidele said that the four cardinal objectives of the Bill include: (a) strengthen the copyright regime in Nigeria to enhance the competitiveness of its creative industries in a digital and knowledge-based global economy; (b) effectively protect the rights of authors to ensure just rewards and recognition for their intellectual efforts while also providing appropriate limitations and exceptions to guarantee access to creative works; encourage cultural interchange and advance public welfare; (c) facilitate Nigeria’s compliance with obligations arising from relevant international copyright treaties; and (d) enhance the capacity of the Nigerian Copyright Commission for effective administration and enforcement of the provisions of the Copyright Act.

He lamented that due to the inability of successive governments to update the copyright law in Nigeria, many businesses had disappeared and many creative experts in Nigeria were deprived of their legitimate rights to earn a living from their creative works.

He also noted the adverse consequences of the weak administrative and legal framework, low criminal sanctions, inadequate pre-emptive provisions and the huge scale of copyright piracy and other copyright abuses.

He, therefore, expressed optimism that the Bill would meet the expectations of stakeholders to streamline Nigerian copyright law with current realities and make room for more effective regulation, promotion and protection of the copyright of Nigerians.

Speaking after the passage of the Bill, the Senate Leader, Abdullahi congratulated the two committees that worked on the Bill for work well done in harmonising the Private Member Bill and the Executive Bill to produce an excellent outcome.

Reacting, Asein, who was at the Senate to observe proceedings, described the passage of the Bill as a watershed in the development of copyright law in Nigeria, describing it as the first successful legislative intervention in the field of intellectual property under a democratic regime.

He expressed appreciation to the leadership of the Senate and the distinguished senators for the commitment demonstrated throughout the legislative process to complement the efforts of Government to overhaul the copyright system.