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Copyright council and the piracy challenge

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
22 September 2019   |   2:05 am
• NCC, NPA, Book Sellers Partner To Boost Fight Against Piracy • 75 Per Cent Of Proceeds Accruable To Intellectual Property Owners Go To Pirates If Nigeria will succeed in its efforts at diversifying its economic sustenance beyond revenue inflow from petroleum products, priority must be placed on the development of the creative industries and…

DVD duplicating equipment PHOTO: GOOGLE

• NCC, NPA, Book Sellers Partner To Boost Fight Against Piracy
• 75 Per Cent Of Proceeds Accruable To Intellectual Property Owners Go To Pirates

If Nigeria will succeed in its efforts at diversifying its economic sustenance beyond revenue inflow from petroleum products, priority must be placed on the development of the creative industries and protection of copyright works against the onslaught of piracy. This was the submission at a recent intellectual property session.

Established under section 34 of the Copyright Act (Cap C28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004) the Nigerian Copyright Commission was inaugurated on August 19, 1989, first as the Nigerian Copyright Council. It was elevated to the status of a Commission in April 1996 and this administrative change was confirmed by the Copyright (Amendment) Decree 1999.

The commission is the government agency responsible for all copyright matters in Nigeria including the administration, regulation, enforcement and prosecution under the Copyright Act. Its statutory mandates include:
• responsibility for all matters affecting copyright in Nigeria as provided for in the Act;
• monitoring and supervising Nigeria’s position in relation to international conventions and advising Government thereon;
• advising and regulating conditions for the conclusion of bilateral and multilateral agreements between Nigeria and any other country;
• enlightening and informing the public on matters relating to copyright;
• maintaining an effective data bank on authors and their works; and
• responsibility for such other matters as relate to copyright in Nigeria as the Minister may, from time to time, direct.
The Commission is also charged with the following statutory responsibilities under the Copyright Act:
• the certification of countries that are parties to treaty obligations for the purpose of determining whether a copyright work may enjoy copyright by virtue of such international obligation. Such a certificate is conclusive proof of that fact. (Section 5)
• the regulation of the conditions for the exercise of the right of an author of graphic works, three-dimensional works and manuscripts to share in the proceeds of any sale of that work or manuscript by public auction or through a dealer. (Section 13)
• the issuance of exemption certificate for the purpose of enabling an otherwise unapproved collecting society to commence action for the infringement of copyright or any right under the Copyright Act. (Section 17)
• the prescription of anti-piracy devices for use on, in, or in connection with any work in which copyright subsists. (Section 21)
• the authorisation of the reproduction, communication to the public and adaptation of expressions of folklore for commercial purposes outside their traditional or customary contexts. (Section 31)
• the granting of compulsory licenses in accordance with the provisions of the Fourth Schedule to the Act as well as the establishment and regulation of the Copyright Licensing Panel. (Section 37)
• the appointment of copyright inspectors as it may deem fit. (Section 38)
• the approval and regulation of collecting societies for the purpose of the Copyright Act. (Section 39)
• the receipt and disbursement of funds arising from the imposition of compulsory levy on copyright materials. (Section 40)
• the regulation of the conditions necessary for the operation of a business involving the production, public exhibition, hiring or rental of any work in which copyright subsists under the Act. (Section 45(1)
• the carrying out of such directives of a general or special character with respect to its functions as the Minister may give. (Section 50)

Watchers of event in the sector have noted that in a properly structured economy, artistes rely heavily on the royalties paid for the use of their copyrighted works. The proliferation, polarisation, politicisation and lack of transparency regarding the tariffs charged for the use of copyrighted works would continue to stiffen the professional administration of copyright royalties’ collection and disbursement.

The above concerns are especially more prevalent in the music industry; to the utmost disadvantage of music artistes who suffer too from the under-enforcement of the various piracy laws.

They note that the refusal of the various contending copyright CMO/Collecting Societies to at least collaborate and transparently publish their repertoires’ licensing requirements, with their tariff rates for each copyrighted work actually used, will continue to stifle the entertainment industry.

Speaking at a recent copyright forum, Director-General of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Dr. Mansur Liman, noted that the human capital and creativity of Nigerians were enormous with potential to serve as viable streams of revenue for the country, if properly harnessed.

“If the oil wells dry up, Nigeria is endowed with a viable repertoire of creative industries that can sustain it economically. We must develop our creative potentials and harness benefits of the copyright sector on a sustainable basis,” he stated.

Only on Monday, the U.S. Mission in Nigeria and the American Business Council, in partnership with the Government of Nigeria and members of the private sector, held a two-day Intellectual Property (IP) symposium on the theme, The Bane of Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals and Piracy.

The symposium brought together a broad range of stakeholders including senior officials from Federal ministries, departments and agencies, legislators, lawyers, business and technology leaders.U.S. Embassy Chargé d’affaires, Kathleen FitzGibbon, delivered remarks highlighting the importance of intellectual property rights protection, which enables the innovation and creativity needed to bolster economic growth.

Chargé FitzGibbon noted that strong intellectual property rights protection is essential to creating jobs and opening new markets for goods and services.

“This is not just an American issue, this is a global issue and as Nigeria moves ahead with goals of diversifying and shifting to a knowledge-based economy, a strong intellectual property rights regime will help attract investment and protect Nigerian ideas and Nigerian businesses,” Chargé FitzGibbon said.She urged stakeholders — government, consumers, and businesses to join forces in ensuring the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Through economic diplomacy overseas, the United States encourages host-nation governments to establish predictable legal regimes to ensure intellectual property rights can be secured.As a follow-up to the IP symposium, a regional cybercrime, cyber security and Internet piracy workshop will hold from tomorrow, September 23 to 27, 2019.

For the Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State and pioneer Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. Moses Ekpo, only an adequate infrastructural and financial support for the Commission will enable it discharge its enormous administrative, regulatory, enforcement, prosecution and copyright awareness mandates for sustainable growth of the creative industries and development of the national economy.

Ekpo implored the Federal Government to provide adequate funding for the Commission to enable it deliver on its enormous mandates.He also called on state governments to complement the efforts of the Commission by providing accommodation and basic support for the establishment of copyright offices in all the states of the Federation. Such support, he noted, would assist in the development of the creative industries and contribute to the advancement of the national economy.

“It is my expectation that nothing should hinder our avowed commitment to ensuring that Nigeria catches up with global best practices in the areas of intellectual property protection as it is obtained in the advanced polities,” he stated.

In the last 30 years, NCC has transisted from being a mere administrative agency to a regulatory and enforcement outfit with additional responsibility to prosecute copyright offenders.”Nigeria no longer takes the back seat in matters of copyright and intellectual property (IP). Unlike in the past where issues of copyright and intellectual property sounded strange to many, the country internalised and domesticated the provisions and imperatives of the contemporary international copyright laws and administration.

Ekpo, who emerged as the president of the General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), in 1995, said, “it is a fact that Nollywood has become a money spinner and creative artistes such as musicians, authors, sculptors, artists are beginning to earn from their creativity.

Chairman of Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Services who chaired the occasion, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, assured that the National Assembly would collaborate with the Commission and copyright stakeholders to review and amend relevant laws on copyright to create an enabling environment for sustainable development of the creative industries.

He added: “In line with our mandate, we shall continue to engage with our stakeholders to promote effective rights management, proactive enforcement against rights violations and building linkages at national and international levels. This will help to ensure the visibility of Nigeria as a leading nation on copyright and intellectual property protection”.

The Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata SAN, acknowledged that, through the efforts of the government and the Commission over the years, the creative industries have contributed significantly to the development of the economy, as they have created employment opportunities for many youths.

The Commission recently intensified its partnership with the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), Book Sellers Association of Nigeria (BSAN) and other stakeholders to boost the fight against book piracy in Nigeria. At a stakeholders’ meeting on the theme, Book Piracy in Schools, organised by NCC and NPA to dialogue towards checking the scourge of book piracy in the school system, Asein said book piracy is bedeviling schools and therefore requires serious interrogation.

He decried the negative impact of piracy and its discouraging effect on authors who are creators of works and students as beneficiaries of the works who are often left with pirated and substandard texts books.“We have a choice to silence piracy and spare the life and soul of books or allow piracy grow and let the book go under,” he stressed.

The DG stated, ‘’there is a need for all stakeholders to partner against book piracy in schools in order to sanitise the system, so, it does not cripple the book industry.’’He blamed the high rise of piracy in schools on the complicity of some proprietors and other collaborators, warning that the Commission would soon come up with “strategies and policies that will help in changing the current system.’’

The National President of the NPA, Mr. Adedapo Gbadega, noted that over 75 per cent of proceeds accruable from books were consumed yearly by book pirates as most proprietors deal directly with pirates thereby depriving authors and publishers of getting value for their labour.

While reiterating his organisation’s commitment to the protection of the copyright of authors, copyright owners and their creative works, Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. John Ohi Asein, said the Commission would initiate new measures to curtail the activities of pirates and added that pirates would no longer be allowed to undermine the growth and development of the creative industry.When he was appointed Director-General, he had declared his commitment to the reconstruction and repositioning of the Commission for effective regulation and development of the nation’s copyright industries.

Asein indicated that the Commission under his watch would develop a comprehensive intervention strategy that would impact positively on every sector of the creative industries.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.