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January 30, 2006

Copyright is a "progenitor of development"

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A week or so ago this article appeared in the Vanguard, a paper in Nigeria. At places the English is a little stilted, but the message comes through that at least some people in Nigeria understand the critical relationship between IP and development. We could do worse than to hear from Mrs. Njoku at WIPO.

In case the link goes dead at some point, here's the text.

How to Win The War Against Piracy in Nigeria.
by Larry Williams
12 January 2006

WITH the emergence of electronic networking, recording or transfer of information from one device to the other, has almost been made possible, cheaper and speedy. But this is done at the detriment of the original owner of such works. In attempt to fight against this menace, a lecture tagged "Copyright protection as the bedrock of sustainable development" was held last week at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, to mark the 3rd edition of the Eko Library Week . The lecture was in honour of Mrs. Loretter Chinweike Alero Njoku, a pioneer staff of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), and the present Acting Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission.

Chaired by Senator Onyeakwo Obi, the lecturer of the day was Mrs. L.C.A. Njoku. Delivering the lecture, she laid emphasis on the basic concept and rationale behind copyrights economic perspectives to copyright protection and managing the copyright system for growth and development.

According to Mrs. Njoku, copyright is a progenitor of development. Development which refers to growth - to cause to increase, to build and advance cannot be achieved because of the problems of copyright. She further stressed that it can be vindicated from a historical point of view given the fact that the industrial revolution in the medieval west occurred simultaneously with the modern intellectual property system -- particularly the copyright aspect. She also said this vindication of this assumption can be seen in the contemporary times. For example, the incorporation of intellectual property rights protection, which include copyright, into the framework of global trade agreement. Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, (TRIPS) which is an annexure to the world trade organisation instruments. According to Mrs. Njoku, the
world has come to know that, the intellectual property products are becoming increasingly important in wide range of human activities not least so in the area of trade and cultural exchange.

To stop this vice, Mrs. Njoku stressed on the need for intellectual property rights. According to her, it is the exclusive right of the creator of certain kinds of works to control acts that may be carried out in relation to such works by a third party. That these works are particularly products of intellectual exertions of persons in the area of arts and science. And the underpinnings of this protection are both economic and moral. According to Mrs. Njoku, it is believed that the author's exclusive right to control the exploitation of his work puts him in good stead to derive economic benefits therefrom. By exercising this right also, either directly or through licensing a third party to do so, he is able to generate revenue for his upkeep and for underwriting the cost of his productions. For example, the cost of producing and distributing motion pictures; developing, testing and maintaining computer softwares; scouting, recording and promoting musical talents and all other activities that are necessary in making creative works available for public consumption.

The Copyright Law also serves to protect author's moral interests in their works by providing safeguards against undue denigration of the work either through mutilation or other acts capable of their integrity. Copyright protection is above all one of the means of promoting, enriching and disseminating national cultural heritage. In Nigeria, copyright is protected by the Copyright Act (Cap 68 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 as  amended and subsidiary legislations made pursuant to the Act). Section 1(1) of the Act lists the broad categories of works, which are eligible for copyright protection to include literary works, musical works, artistic works, cinematography films, sound recording and broadcast. The Act also provides protection for live performances and expressions of folklore. However, the nature of the rights guaranteed to each category of works differs.

Also, according to Mrs. Njoku in response to the challenges posed by emerging technologies in the area of information and communication, the international copyright community in 1996 adopted two new treaties. These are the WIPO Copyright Treaty (NCT) and WIPO performance and phonogram treaty (WPPT). The treaties made it clear that the traditional property rights of copyrights owners apply even in the digital environment. By this, they strengthen and clarify provisions of both the Berne Convention and the Rome Convention. And these two treaties have been initiated in Nigeria.

Talking on the aspect of the economic perspective to copyright protection, Mrs. Njoku said, the country's development depends largely on the creativity of its people, and the encouragement of national creativity is a sine qua non for progress. Creativity as we know is the subject of copyright protection. It follows therefore that where there is an efficient copyright system, the country's socio-economic and cultural development will have a greater chance of success, as creativity would be sustained.

On the aspect of managing the copyright system for growth and development, Mrs. Njoku said the economic imperative for protecting copyright demands that the regime facilitates a just and adequate recompense for the creators and society. And the only way this can be done, is by creating the necessary infrastructure and enabling environment for the effective utilization of creative products. That the starting point is to have a good copyright legislation.

Concluding the lecture, Mrs. Njoku advocated the need for collaborative effort between the creative community and the government agencies, noting that " Government as a matter of duty will not relent in its continuing drive to achieve a sound copyright regime, but the success of such efforts will largely, as always, depend on the commitment of the right owner to issues of copyright".

While commenting on the lecture, the chairman, Senator Onyeakwo Obi and the organizer of the lecture, Professor Adenimpe jointly urged Nigerians, including the media to join hands in the fight against piracy in the country.

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