Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Chief Tony Okoroji has said that Nigeria is not ready for the Creative Commons approach to copyright administration. Chief Okoroji made this known while reacting to key issues deliberated upon at the recently held workshop on “Nigeria’s Digital Economy and the Copyright System: Challenges and Opportunities for Strategic Growth in the Information Age” in Lagos.
Chief Okoroji stated that adopting the Creative Commons model of copyright management at this time will only deal a big blow on Nigeria’s already threatened creative industries.
He said, “I want to plead with those who want Nigeria to join the Creative Commons experiment to tarry a while. The copyright culture in our country is still being built. A sudden jump into the Creative Commons model at this point will send devastating mixed signals that would do significant harm to our creative industries. This is not the time.”
Chief Okoroji who wrote from far away Oslo where he had gone to deliver a lecture at a program organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Norwegian Copyright Development Association (NORCODE) for senior executives of copyright collective management organizations from different parts of the world said his reaction to the deliberations that went down in Lagos had become imperative because of his never ending passion for the development of the copyright culture in Nigeria.
Chief Okoroji said that with the advent of the digital era and the many challenges it presents, now is the time for all hands to be on deck to protect the rights of creative people in Nigeria and not create loop holes in a system that has begun to reward the hard work of thousands of creative Nigerians after many years of wastage brought about by the blatant abuse of the nation’s intellectual property rights.
He said that one important way in which right holders could earn money from the untracked exploitation of their works is through the Copyright Levy Scheme and called on the government of President Buhari to implement the execution of this Scheme.
He said, “As the digital revolution evolves more and more, it is clear that the shape of the music industry is becoming remarkably different. Rather than buy physical products like vinyl, music cassettes, CDs or DVDs, most consumers are obtaining and storing enormous amount of music on their cell phones, ipads, ipods, Mp3s, Mp4s, memory chips, memory sticks and similar digital devices. A tiny amount of this is paid for. A lot is not paid for. The method of music distribution is also changing rapidly with the telephone companies and internet aggregators providing the ‘pipes’ through which music moves from the producers to the consumers.
“The headquarters of music piracy in Nigeria may also have changed from the notorious Alaba Market to the Ikeja Computer Village, all in Lagos. In Computer Village and replicated in many Nigerian cities today, thousands of young men with laptops and without the authorization of the owners of the works, are openly compiling the most popular songs in the market for a small fee, transferring these songs to mobile handsets, mp3s, mp4s, ipods, ipads, iphones, or flash drives for whoever has money to pay! The emergence of this kind of brazen digital piracy is a menace which has resulted in the dwindling sales of physical music products like CDs and DVDs and putting hundreds of thousands of legitimate jobs at risk and driving away millions of dollars in badly needed investment.
“I do not think that anyone ever expected this kind of development. The enforcement climate needed to deal with this is absent as the resources needed to attack this scourge which appears to be particularly Nigerian do not seem to be there. Section 40 of the Copyright Act which provides for the Private Copy Levy scheme can however address some of the consequences of the menace if it is brought into force. Unfortunately well over 23 years since the promulgation of the law, the unending protocol, red tape and bureaucracy in the Federal government system have made it impossible for the stakeholders to benefit from this important scheme which lubricates the creative industries in neighbouring nations such as Ghana and Burkina Faso.
“The Nigerian music industry had called on the immediate past Honourable Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, to take charge and unshackle the private copy levy scheme which has remained trapped in the Directorate of Fiscal Policy in her ministry for many months. The private copy levy scheme is intended to provide badly needed cushion for the stakeholders in the creative industry suffering from the unbridled copying and downloading of creative materials made possible by digital technology.
Unfortunately, she did not address it until she left office.
“It is our hope that the new government of President Buhari which has indicated that it wants to release the creative potentials of the Nigerian people will without delay activate this scheme which will provide some succor not just for the music industry but also for the movie and literary industries. Rather than ‘dash’ money to the practitioners in the creative industries from government funds, the scheme will provide the platform for practitioners to earn their own income and further provide resources for the battle against piracy.
In conclusion, Chief Okoroji thanked all who are committed to the defense and promotion of intellectual property rights in Nigeria and specially commended the different Judges of the Federal High Court and the Justices of the Court of Appeal “for their correct interpretation of the law on collecting societies and repeatedly refusing to bow to those who want to stampede them to read the law upside down and prolong the suffering of the Nigerian creative community”.