Copyright Commission Restates Commitment to Reform Regime

The Director-General, Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) Afam Ezekude has restated his commitment to strengthening the policy and Legislative framework of Copyright in Nigeria.

He noted that the cardinal policy of the Commission under his charge is to support copyright industries by making necessary regulatory interventions and introducing schemes to reinforce rights management initiatives of authors, copyright owners and other stakeholders across the board.

The DG stated this recently when he gave a keynote address on "the Status of the Ongoing Reform of the Nigerian Copyright System" at the Arterial Network Cultural Management Programme held recently at the British Council in Lagos.

The Arterial Network is a Pan-African network of artists, arts organisations, creative enterprise and activists engaged in capacity building, advocacy, research, cultural policy, and information dissemination geared towards growing and strengthening the cultural and creative sectors in Africa; contributing to democracy, human rights and development on the Africa continent.

Mr. Ezekude stressed that the Reform of the existing Copyright Act, Launched in November 2012 is aimed at among other things repositioning Nigeria's creative industries for greater growth; strengthen their capacity to compete more effectively in the global marketplace; and enable Nigeria to fully satisfy its obligations under the various International Copyright Instruments, which it has either ratified or indicated interest to ratify.

The DG giving a highlight of the Draft Copyright Bill, stated that it makes provision for among others "works eligible for copyright protection, qualification for protection and the nature of rights conferred on authors of such works. The scope of protection and rights has been expanded to reflect new platforms of exploitation of creative works and the Bill also indentifies subject matters which are not eligible for protection.

The Bill has elaborated provisions for exception to copyright control, in the nature of general exceptions, and special exceptions. In the general exceptions, the principles of fair dealing has been redrafted to provide a more flexible framework that will encourage the use of existing works as stimulus for further creativity.

Among the special exceptions are provisions for archives, libraries, museums and galleries; Special exception for blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled persons; and provisions for education and research. The regime of compulsory licenses has been retained. In addition new provisions have been made for grant of compulsory licenses where it becomes necessary in the public interest".

According to him the draft bill has significantly increased penalties for copyright offenders; he noted that "Apart from creating liability for principal offenders, there is also liability in respect of aiding and procuring the commission of copyright offences. There are provisions for anti-piracy measures. In particular, is made for prohibition of circumvention of technological protection measures adopted by owners of copyright in relation to their works issued for commercial distribution, as well as provisions against falsification, alteration or removal of electronic rights management information" he added.

While noting that the entire preparatory stage of the Reform project was guided by the underlying objective of the reform, he added that the updated draft bill has since been submitted to the office of the Honourable and Attorney General and Minister of Justice for further necessary action towards its submission to the National Assembly as an Executive Bill.

Meanwhile giving a summary of Enforcement Interventions of the Commission since 2011, the Director-General said over Two Hundred and Seventy (270) anti-piracy operations have been carried out at various locations in the country, resulting in the removal of Seven Million, Nine Hundred and Forty Two Thousand, Six Hundred and Eighty Three (7, 942, 683) units of various pirated products valued at over N8.1 billion naira, with Six Hundred and Eight (608) suspected pirates apprehended.

He further stated that the enforcement action was backed up with vigorous prosecution, resulting in the conviction of 54 copyright pirates at different Federal High Court Jurisdiction in Nigeria, while 172 cases are at various stages of trail.

Mr. Ezekude also disclosed that within the period under review, the Commission has made significant success in its Port Monitoring Scheme, with the seizure of 25 Containers of assorted pirated foreign and Nigeria works at the ports and that the Commission also carried out public destruction of Seven Hundred and Forty Nine Million, Three Hundred and Sixteen Thousand, One Hundred and Eighty Seven (749, 316, 187) units of seized pirated copyright works and contrivances estimated at Ten Billion, Three Hundred Million naira (N10, 300, 000, 000. 00) across the nation.

The event was co-hosted by the British Council and the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA)/ Arterial Network Nigeria and attended by artists, practitioners in the creative enterprises, members of CORA/Arterial Network Nigeria and the representatives from the banking industry.