Copyright in Nigeria and the problem of Piracy

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Copyright in Nigeria and the problem of Piracy

The Problem Statement

Piracy constitutes a very serious threat to the core of creative industries.

Piracy has become a clog in the wheel of the production and growth of copyright works. It has led to counterfeit and fake products which have negatively affected original creators.

Today, there are several incidences of piracy in the various subject matter of copyright throughout the whole world and in Nigeria in particular. They include:

  • Software piracy
  • Cinematography film piracy
  • Music piracy and
  • Book piracy

Piracy is a global cankerworm that affects both developed and developing countries of the world. It remains a challenge to law enforcement agencies and society at large.

Nigeria is ranked among countries where piracy is prevalent. In Nigeria today, piracy hits all sectors of the copyright industry, but the worst hit is the entertainment industry.

Copies of Pirated Nigerian movies for sale.
Copies of Pirated Nigerian movies for sale.

Copyright as a lubricant for creativity has assumed a prominent role in the field of commerce and trade globally but unfortunately, piracy has cut short this rationale of copyright protection leaving the creators in penury. The real impact of piracy can be evaluated from an economic, social and political standpoint

The Policy Solution

The Nigerian copyright commission established under the act is the only government agency saddled with the responsibility for copyright administration in Nigeria.

The mandate of the commission includes administration, enforcement and regulation of copyright activities in Nigeria which includes the fight against piracy.

The Nigeria government has adopted a zero-tolerance approach for acts of piracy through the instrumentality of the Nigerian Copyright Act.

The copyright act provides for an anti-piracy measure to assist the commission effectively and efficiently carry out its function. Thus section 21 of the act provides that:

“The commission shall have power, with the consent of the minister, to prescribe any design, label, mark, impression or any other anti-piracy device for use on, or in connection with any work in which copyright subsists, any person who sells, rents, hires, or offers any work in contravention of the prescription made pursuant to subsection (1) of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding ₦100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.”

By the above provision and that of section 34 of the Act, the Nigerian copyright commission (NCC) is clearly and explicitly empowered to fight and curb piracy in Nigeria.

Since its establishment, it has worked, through its enforcement units, tirelessly to clamp down on piracy and reduce it to the barest minimum.

Campaigns such as strategic Actions Against Piracy (STRAP) and the copyright litigation and mediation programme (CLAMP) launched in 2005 are testimonies to this. Since 2010, however, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) has intensified its enforcement and anti-piracy activities.

More so, the commission has filed several copyright cases and has secured convictions against accused persons through the court.

It has also collaborated with Google Nigeria to fight internet piracy and cybercrime in Nigeria. This collaboration was necessitated by the increasing challenge posed by online piracy to creativity.

Through the instrumentality of STRAP, the commission has tried and is working more to rebrand the ideology of Nigerians towards the evil called piracy.

The STRAP is a national anti-piracy campaign that employs various tools such as public enlightenment to combat all forms of piracy, empower local industries and attract foreign investment, through creativity and abhors international crimes; and substantially raise awareness on piracy and other copyright infringements among Nigerians.

NIGAC Constructive Position/Take

Despite the effort of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), the issue of piracy and other copyright infringements is still prevalent in Nigeria.

Some of the issues confronting the commission and limiting its effectiveness are weak enforcement, poor funding, corruption, culture, mobility of officials, insecurity, language barrier, technology, favouritism and several others.

The government should ensure that adequate funding is made available to the commission so as to be able to acquire facilities for piracy raid without any constraint.

  • There is a need to amend the Copyright Act as the fine and term of imprisonment is rather ridiculous and will not deter any offender. Stiffer penalties should be provided.
  • The need for amendment and review is also advocated in order to make provisions for the regulation of emerging technologies.
  • Officials of the commission should be trained to become technologically compliant. With the high rates of copyright infringement online, training the officials on the use of technology will be effective in the fight against internet piracy.
  • Good, functional vehicles should be made available to the commission to aid in piracy raid.
  • Security men like the police should be provided to accompany the Nigerian Copyright Commission officials during the raid to protect them from attacks.
  • Appointment of officials should be based on merit, discipline, efficiency and commitment to the cause of the commission and not on favouritism.
  • Adequate remuneration will also help in their effectiveness and deter them from seeking or being enticed by any gratification offered by pirates which if such gratifications are collected will lead to their ineffectiveness and as such the infringement they were to call to order will persist or continue.

The damaging effect of piracy is visible all around us, ranging from lack of zeal for creativity to a declining economic resource.

It is in recognition of the importance of creative arts and intellectualism that the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) attempts to fight piracy to a standstill.

A well empowered and equipped Commission and officials will bring about effectiveness in curbing the high rate of piracy which in turn will spur creativity and invariably impact on the nation’s economy.

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