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Intellectual Property Theft… Okoroji Woos Buhari


imageNO doubt, Nigeria’s creative industry has come of age. At least, it is on record that the country has the third largest and fastest growing movie industry in the world, after Hollywood and Bollywood. When it comes to music in Africa, Nigeria holds the ace. The reality check was conducted recently at the 2015 MAMA Awards in South South Africa, where Nigerian musicians such Davido, Yemi Alade, Don Jazzy, D’Banj and Patoranking reaffirmed the country’s leadership in the continent.

Regrettably, Nigerian movies and musical works are the most pirated in the world, making the owners of these intellectual properties unable to enjoy the earnings from their hardwork. From Alaba Market in Lagos, to Iweka Road Onitsha, Ogbete Market Enugu, Ariara Market Aba, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Jos, Ibadan, Abeokuta… pirated works dot the streets. In traffic, they are hawked like pure water, sometimes under the watchful eyes of law enforcement officers. Record has it that all major movies released in recent times, were all pirated before official release.

Really, stealing intellectual property is cheap and easy. All a ‘thief’ has to do is copy someone else’s ideas or product. The other person or company—the victim—has done all the work, but thieves can reap huge profits. Intellectual property theft can cost people their jobs, damage the reputation of the original maker of the counterfeited product, cause sickness and bodily harm, deprive governments of desperately needed tax revenue, and even result in the spread of organised crime and gangs, which in turn can damage more lives and destroy neighborhoods.

Worried with the rising rate of the menace in the country, Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Chief Tony Okoroji, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to spark an intellectual property revolution in Nigeria without delay. Visibly angry Okoroji made this call at a Town Hall Meeting organised by the BBC Media Action in Abuja recently.
At the event, which was staged at Protea Hotel, Asokoro, Okoroji observed that in a world which is rapidly being swept over by the digital economy and the digital revolution, the Nigerian nation will hugely regret it if it does not quickly tool itself with the full understanding of the concept of intellectual property and the economic necessity to defend intellectual property rights.
“The days when oil ruled the world may have gone for good; we may have seen the last of the era of the 100-dollar a barrel of crude oil. Our crude oil of the future may have to be drilled from the ingenuity of young Nigerians. That ingenuity can be seen in how wide our music, movies, literature, fashion, programming and similar products of the creative endeavor are spreading across the world. This is clearly an area in which Nigeria has comparative advantage. Unfortunately, both at home and abroad, these creative products are being stolen with impunity without our nation seeming to care much,” he said.
Speaking on the panel on Piracy in the Creative industry, which also had Mr. Aderemi Adewusi, Head of Public Affairs at the Nigerian Copyright Commission, Okoroji said that the important investments required to actualise the hundreds of thousands of potential jobs, which the Nigerian creative sector can generate and the billions of naira in revenue accruable to the nation will not take place except investors are guaranteed that their investments will be protected.

The former President of PMAN and author of Copyright & the New Millionaires said that President Buhari, who has a Vice President in Prof Osinbajo with the intellect to fully grasp the issues, owes it to the Nigerian nation to kick start an intellectual property revolution in Nigeria that assures our citizens that if your mind can create something of value, the country will protect you to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

“Nigeria must end the ‘monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’ environment that retards growth and development so as to release the latent creative ingenuity of our people and attract the investments to fully exploit this ingenuity,” he said.
A known intellectual property activist across Africa, Okoroji said that his experience with COSON should show everyone that change can indeed happen in Nigeria and that Nigeria is not necessarily a lawless nation. According to him, COSON has had to go to court about fifty times to ensure that the users of music in Nigeria begin to appreciate the fact that music is someone’s property, which cannot be deployed in a business or public setting without appropriate permission. He called on creative people in Nigeria to stand up, take responsibility and establish strong lobbies, which are required in every democracy to positively shape policies.  

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