Ever since Olusegun Adeniyi, a former presidential spokesman for the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua launched his book titled “Against the Run of Play”, there has been a lot of concerns voiced out by many regarding the piracy of the book barely three days after its launch. The Internet has been buzzed by many who have called out against the Nigerian government for its seeming ineptitude to tackle copyright piracy in Nigeria. All blames from concerned citizens and even from the author himself have gone to the Federal Government's inability to forestall copyright infractions and crimes against intellectual property.
A group of intellectual property practitioners have blamed the National Assembly for not passing the new copyright bill that would have amended the substantive Copyright Act of 2004, which in their own view would have sufficiently taken care of the issue of piracy once and for all. Others have blamed the Nigerian Copyright Commission and other relevant government agencies for not rising up to their responsibility of protecting works of copyright owners; and some others have simply blamed Nigerians for not appreciating intellectual property works and are even the ones conniving and encouraging those unscrupulous fellows to pirate intellectual works of arts and sciences. Interestingly, even the majority of the public who downloaded the book on their gadgets and shared same on WhatsApp, Emails, Twitter and other online media have joined to criticize the government.
It is most baffling that the author and his publishers Kachifo Publishers Limited who are not novices to the activities of pirates in the Publishing industry have fallen prey to the menace of piracy and especially to that kind of piracy that is not very common in the publishing industry- online piracy.
Going by the tweet sent out by the author in his twitter account on 1st May 2017, he and his publishers seemed to be helpless in the face of the ugly situation and have consequently resigned to fate as if there are no remedies on ground to assuage the harm done by the acts of piracy which they are currently facing. This attitude of ignorance or nonchalance of owners of intellectual property works towards the protection of their intellectual property rights is the bane of the development of intellectual property law and administration in Nigeria.
Despite the challenges complained of by the author, there are still quite a number of options available to him and other owners of intellectual property whose works have been infringed upon. Besides reporting such infractions to the Nigerian Copyright Commission, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Police also share joint responsibility of protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights and laws in Nigeria. The Copyright Act 2004 also made magnanimous provisions for copyright owners whose rights have been breached to institute civil action in court against offenders even while criminal investigations and prosecutions are still on going. Also available for the author is the “notice-and-takedown" policy of the Nigerian Copyright Commission which involves the copyright owner filing a notice of infringement at the Copyright Commission against the offending websites and their web hosts after which the Commission processes the complaint and goes ahead to have the offending websites taken down if the web hosts do not by themselves take down the offending post or link.
As with other laws in Nigeria, copyright laws and administration are faced with the similar problems of ineffective enforcement of laws, lacklustre process of adjudication and prosecution of offenders at the courts and poor funding and remuneration of government staff. On the issue at hand, the act of blaming ‘the authorities’ by an enlightened author like Olusegun Adeniyi and his publishers Kachifo Publishers Limited is akin to playing the ostrich game. Publishing is like any other business and profession in Nigeria. Every business and profession is faced with its own problems and challenges; and in these other businesses and professions, the players and stakeholders therein have had to deal with their own challenges, which in some instances are even more devastating than the problem of copyright infractions in the publishing industry.
Olusegun Adeniyi’s resignation to fate and calling on ‘the authorities’, which he was once, a part of is not a good way to deal with the present challenges of copyright piracy in Nigeria. Copyright is like any other economic right. For instance, no landowner whose possessory rights have been trespassed upon would merely release a tweet and call on the government to protect him against trespassers and then go to sleep. Such a landowner would be seen to be very ignorant of the laws and actions he needs to take in the face of his malady. The same thing goes to owners of intellectual properties. Until copyright owners and owners of intellectual property begin to make use of the options at hand and (or) devise a means to protect themselves against copyright trespassers and violations, they will continue to wail in perpetuity.
In the case of Olusegun Adeniyi, what is more worrisome is the failure of people like him and his publishers to realize that they themselves have what it takes to successfully lobby for a better regime of intellectual property administration in Nigeria. While Kachifo Publishers Limited is the authorized publisher of former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s trilogy titled ‘My Watch’; Olusegun Adeniyi has had and is still having frequent direct and unfettered access to the high and mighty in the land. These personalities that he rub shoulders with can at the snap of a finger change the course of intellectual property administration in Nigeria if only the author has taken it upon himself to engage them.
The idea of screaming blue murder of how intellectual property works of authors and artistes are being violated in Nigeria with impunity would do nobody good if no concrete actions are taken by major stakeholders to curb the menace. In fact, the screams have done more bad than good as Nigeria in the comity of nation is now seen as the hub of intellectual property violations while Nigerians are now seen as intellectual property fraudsters.
This article was written by Lawrence .C. Nnoli, the Managing Partner of Nnoli Lawrence & Associates (Excel Law Chambers).
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