It is a great pleasure for me to join the community of authors and copyright stakeholders across the globe to mark and celebrate this year’s World Book and Copyright Day. As agreed with other stakeholders, our theme for this year’s celebration is “Discover the World through Reading”!
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1995 declared April 23 as a special day to focus on the wonderful world of books and the enduring role of copyright in promoting and protecting the rights of authors and other stakeholders. The day is also an occasion to celebrate the contribution of books and authors to our global culture as well as highlight the connection between copyright, creativity and books to the propagation of our common values as humanity. For us at the Nigerian Copyright Commission, it is an opportunity to again underscore the importance of creativity to our collective development aspirations as a nation, with particular emphasis on respect for copyright and the effective protection of the rights of our authors.
As we join the world to celebrate the book as an enduring legacy, it is saddening to note the decline in our reading culture. This has become a major national concern in Nigeria for its youth population. The essence of reading, particularly for leisure and personal enjoyment, cannot be over emphasized. Reading is to the mind what physical exercise is to the body; it is food for the soul, the chisel that helps shape who we become in today’s knowledge driven world. Books develop the personality and stimulate imagination, taking us to far away lands that we may never visit physically. Reading unlocks the potentials in us and fires our creative talents to innovate and build our society.
Incidentally, the book remains the most resilient and prevalent copyright work today. It has helped grow human civilization and over the centuries has contributed to the development of virtually all fields of human endeavour, including education, religion, research and entertainment. In today’s digital world, it is imperative that authors and publishers should make changes in their business and distribution model so as to make the book more attractive to younger readers on the new media and digital platforms.
The Commission will continue to develop policies and strategies to facilitate a culture of respect for authorship and copyright works. We will step up our enforcement and prosecutorial activities to stem the tide of copyright infringements both off and online. We are discussing with the Nigerian Publishers Association to explore ways of creating safe corridors for the distribution of legitimate books in Nigeria. We will also reinvigorate our compliance checks in schools and other institutions of learning to sensitize them on the need to patronise only genuine copies of books through legitimate channels of distribution. Henceforth, proprietors, heads of schools and authorities in charge will be held vicariously responsible for any pirated books distributed to pupils and students through their schools. We shall also be taking appropriate steps under the law to sanction institutions found involved in mindless and unconscionable use and promotion of pirated books.
The Commission has also embraced developments in the international copyright community to create a more inclusive culture of access to published works for blind and visually impaired persons, as well as persons who are otherwise print disabled. Nigeria, in October 2017, ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. We have also gone ahead to make provision for the domestication of the treaty in the new Copyright Bill which was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council.
On a more practical note, the Commission, with help from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and its Accessible Book Consortium, is collaborating with the Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB), the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), the Reproduction Rights Society of Nigeria (REPRONIG), and other key stakeholders to provide more books in accessible formats for blind and visually impaired persons in Nigeria. A pilot project on capacity building assistance, provision of accessible books and assistive technologies to students in that category has already commenced. This is another demonstration of the Federal Government’s policy on inclusiveness, equal access and non-discrimination against persons living with disabilities. On its part, the Commission will continue to propagate the campaign to “Let the Blind Read”.
As we mark this year’s National Book and Copyright Day, may I again use the opportunity to invite all stakeholders in the creative industry to support Government in its efforts to revamp the sector and build a copyright system that will help to maximize its potentials to national economic development.
I wish you a very fruitful celebration and may you “discover the world through reading”!