Misaligned Stances on Copyright Enforcement in Nigeria

Large copyright sign made of jigsaw puzzle pieces
Large copyright sign made of colorful jigsaw puzzle pieces, isolated on a white background in landscape mode and with plenty of white space on the right side.

While the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) reflects on its triumphs of 2012, which reportedly includes the prosecution of 31 copyright cases, the arrest of 85 suspected pirates and confiscation of 3,621,787 million units of pirated goods, a few lawyers based in Lagos have urged the NCC to introduce mechanisms to properly enforce copyright laws in the country.

Lagos-based lawyer, Mrs. Kemi Ajayi, opined that the NCC’s failure to adequately address infringements on the rights of creators and copyright owners has resulted in the flagrant abuse of the copyright regime, consequently undermining confidence in the protection of creative works.

Ajayi was joined by Mr. George Ogbolu in the contention that the NCC needs to strengthen copyright laws in the country. Ogbolu went further to criticize the lip service often afforded to copyright laws in Nigeria.

Such positions lie in stark divergence from the feats and accomplishments in copyright enforcement frequently touted by the NCC. During a media briefing in Abuja, NCC Director-General, Mr. Afam Ezekude, asserted that in 2012, the Commission initiated a mechanism to reform the Nigerian copyright system in order to better address the complexities and challenges posed by modern digital technology. He went on to state that the Commission enhanced public awareness and education on copyright issues using a multifaceted approach, including mass media platforms and capacity trainings targeted at various stakeholder groups.  Such assertions, however, failed to be fleshed out and substantiated by Ezekude.

Nonetheless, Ezekude did in fact point to the confiscation of 3.6 million units of pirated products and the public burning of 722 million units of copyright infringing products, ostensibly one of the NCC’s greatest feats of 2012.

There is seemingly a marked asymmetry in perspectives surrounding the current state of affairs of copyright enforcement in Nigeria.  Notwithstanding such irregularities in stances, perhaps these views can be reconciled, albeit unsteadily.  The Nigerian copyright regime is imperfect (as are numerous other Copyright and Intellectual Property regimes). While brazen abuses of rights endure, and promises/aspirations periodically abandoned, attempts have in fact been made to strengthen and enforce the Nigerian copyright regime. However, are these steps and attempts enough, sufficient, adequate?

We, the masses, gain from the proper administration of copyright law. However, copyright is not a matter to be cast off or banished solely to the realm of the government. We create, consume and disseminate the subject matter of copyright law. Therefore, we too have to uphold these rights, even if only internally.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/4839454263/

About: Tracy Ayodele

Tracy Ayodele is a Canadian lawyer, called to the Bar of Ontario, and a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School. She has a keen interest in IP policy, social innovation and the intersection of technology, development and start-up culture in emerging economies. She is a spirited legal researcher and writer, and co-authored “Hot-tubbing in Canadian Patent Litigation: A Preliminary Assessment” published in the Intellectual Property Journal.

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