Nigeria on Wednesday October 4, 2017 deposited Instruments of Ratification of four copyright treaties in the on-going 57th meeting of the Assembly of member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) at WIPO headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland which commenced on October 2, 2017 and is expected to end on October 11, 2017. The Treaties ratified are the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT), the Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), Beijing Treaty on Audio Visual Performances and Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.
The Instruments of Ratification were handed over to the Director General of WIPO, Dr. Francis Gurry during the Plenary of the ongoing 57th WIPO General Assembly by His Excellency, Ambassador Audu A. Kadiri, the Permanent Representative at the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva, who was assisted by the Director General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr. Afam Ezekude.
The Ratification of the treaties affirms Nigeria’s acceptance and its undertaking to faithfully perform and carry out obligations under the treaties.
It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari, after due consultations in accordance with Constitutional Provisions and following an approval of the Federal Executive Council, signed these four (4) instruments of ratification of the Treaties on August 24, 2017.
The process for the Ratification of the four treaties was initiated by the Director General, Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr. Afam Ezekude. In July 2017, following a Presentation of Council Memo to the Federal Executive Council by the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, AbubakarMalami, SAN, Council approved the Ratification of the Treaties, which was subsequently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Nigeria was among the member countries of WIPO that signed the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonogram Treaty (WPPT) in 1996 when both instruments were adopted in a Diplomatic Conference held in Geneva on December 20, 1996, at a time when the Pioneer Director General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr. Moses Ekpo served as the President of the WIPO General Assembly.Nigeria also signed the Beijing Treaty on Audio Visual Performances in Beijing on June 24, 2012 and the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind or visually impaired or otherwise Print Disabled in Marrakesh on June 27, 2013 respectively.
The WCT and WPPT, often referred to as "Internet Treaties", was the response of international intellectual property community to the challenges of copyright protection in the emerging digital technology driven environment. The treaties seek to redefine rights of authors and copyright owners in a manner that makes them applicable and enforceable in the context of digital environment.
The Beijing Treaty adopted in 2012 aims to strengthen rights of audiovisual performers in their fixed performances and also addresses the difficulty of negotiating transfer of rights of performers of fixed audiovisual performances. Nigeria stands to derive benefits from this instrument when its provisions are eventually domesticated in the revised Copyright bill being proposed by the NCC.
Similarly, the Beijing treaty guarantees prospects of remuneration for performers in respect of residual exploitation of their fixed performances. For Nigeria and its burgeoning film industry, (NOLLYWOOD) this treaty is particularly germane to the operations of the new system of collective management of rights in audiovisual works, as it will strengthen and expand opportunities for players in the industry.
The Marrakesh Treaty is one of the most globally acclaimed Copyright treaties administered by WIPO. Adopted on June 27, 2013 in Marrakesh, it has a clear humanitarian and social development dimension and its main goal is to create a set of mandatory limitations and exceptions for the benefit of the blind, visually impaired, and otherwise print disabled (VIPs) as it guarantees them access to vital information and learning.
With the ratification of the four treaties, Nigeria is about to witness a new era in its intellectual property protection policy and legislation. The development again underscores the urgent need to enact a new Copyright legislation that will implement the standards stipulated in the treaties.
The Director General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr. Afam Ezekude has reiterated the commitment of the Commission to follow through with the Copyright Reform project of the Commission launched in November, 2012.
He added that since the initiation of the reform, aside the ongoing review of the framework of copyright protection, the commission has been able to effect major Policy and Regulatory reforms, including the issuance of the Copyright (Levy of Materials) Order, which is awaiting final approval for commencement; and the establishment of an e-Registration system for copyright works.