Excerpts from ‘’Perspectives Uncut’’ and ‘’Copyright Issues in Nigeria’’ Radio Interview programmes with the Director-General, NCC, Dr. John Asein and Executive Secretary, Nigeria Publishers Association (NPA), Mr. Abimbola Emmanuel on Fresh 105.9 FM Ibadan and Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) AM 120 on the 1st and 2nd February 2024.

Many people don’t understand what copyright means. To the lay man, can you explain what copyright means?

DG NCC: Copyright is the legal mechanism by which the person who creates is protected and given control over what he produces. The copyright system is there to give the author, the creator some benefits and some recompense for his intellectual exertion and the good thing is that it is not forever. The law that protects copyright gives you enough time to enjoy the fruits of your intellectual labour.

 When it comes to Sound Recording and Broadcasting, who should be compensated?

DG NCC: When we say copyright and the works protected by copyright, which includes literary, musical, artistic, cinematographic, sound recording and broadcast works, in each of these baskets, you will still find different stands, so what is the work and what is the rights you should protect. For audio-visual works, the author is the one who makes arrangement for the production of the work. The person who was recorded may have other rights but it may not be copyright which may be like the performers right. Copyright can be described as sedimentary having layers of works coming together.

What are the implications for the use of all this?

DG NCC: The law provides for civil and criminal infringements. Making works available online without authorisation, amounts to criminal infringement. The buyer of a pirated book may not be that liable because he may not know the circumstances surrounding the book whether it is pirated or not. Pirates are not there to help you. The agenda of pirates is to steal, kill and destroy. The pirate is there to kill creativity, to steal from the author and to destroy the creative economy of any nation.

No country with a vibrant creative economy will allow pirates to run amok. This is why everyone in the society must contribute to put them in check, otherwise we will all have a famished country without creative works.

DG NCC: In cleaning the creative space of piracy, we go after the school, the proprietors, the teachers manning the bookstore in the school, booksellers in the market, the printers and whoever is aiding and abetting piracy. No one should hide in the forest of piracy as long as you are in that forest, you are complicit. Our primary target is not the buyer but everyone who is part of that racket or illicit chain that is aiding or abetting piracy and holding down creativity.

When we talk about copyright and the scope of IP, give us exactly what we are dealing with because there seems to be a pervasive ignorance about what it is all about in Nigeria.

DG NCC: Indeed, people do think that Intellectual Property and copyright is something too far from each other but I do say that every person who has been able to create a work, write a book, a song or an art work has become an author and the owner of an IP. The moment you are able to create an intellectual exertion, you own a copyright to more specific.

Nigeria ranks among the 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the world in the area of reproduction. Our music, art and literature are recognized and accepted all over the world. Most country in the world today, depend on the soft power they have in the area of entertainment and creativity. It is often said in this knowledge driven world that the real property that will help countries to grow and the real asset a people will say they have to be able to move to the next level is IP. We know that oil will have a point where it is exhausted and other physical properties but IP is always renewing itself.

Talking about the issue of piracy, Nigerians seems not to be too bothered due to ignorance to copy or use another person’s work without any recourse to it, can you talk more about it, what is the impact on creators?

DG NCC: The first thing I want to say is that because you have some musicians who are making it does not mean all musicians are making it. People should not think that because they have someone who is successful in a particular creative space does not means that applies to all. The more you disrespect copyright, the more you infringe on other people’s right. The more you patronise pirates and pirated works, the more you reduce the potentials of the creative sector of the creative economy that will take Nigeria to that level.

A lot of Movie Producers and some Publishing houses are going under because they have not been able to recover the level of their investments in the sector due to the activities of pirates. For every pirate you patronise, there are dozens of authors and creators who are suffering because of that act.

In other climes countries have about their 5-10% GDP coming from the creative sector, Nigeria today is investing and the government is putting more emphasis on the creative economy. We realise we cannot just depend on oil, we have potentials in the creative sector so that our creative economy can be able to run Nigeria, if we can exploit and export our creative talents, we have our space to conquer, but if the pirates are not put in check, then we are in for it.

What are the challenges affecting effective operations of the NCC?

DG NCC: The NCC today has a lot of challenges to attend to both in the online and physical space. The challenge of digital regulation, distribution machinery, attitude to piracy, uncontrolled access to the book industry, people not rising to condemn the action of pirates constitute a whole mass of challenge to the work.

Do you have the capacity to track and tackle these challenges in the digital space?

DG NCC: It is always good to exhaust all the capacity that you have, we do what we can and also rely on collaborations. A lot of the pirates show up on different radar so there is that collaboration within the country and outside, there are also global international associations that collaborate to ensure that we bring down those doing piracy online.

Arresting of pirates is a various tedious process and we pick them as they come up. People should be very careful when dealing with pirates and lending support to them because when they are caught, you can go down with them.

With advent of technology the average person is also able to copy other people’s work and use what is your take on that

  1. ABIMBOLA: In the Copyright Act, there is provision for Fair Use. If an average person is copying other people’s work for educational purpose, for research is understandable but it becomes a crime when you are commercializing it for economic purpose. Using the work for academic purpose say photocopying entails paying some monies have to REPRONIG because you are depriving the author and the publisher of some revenues that should have accrued to him.

There is need for us to begin to correct the change on copyright by including the copyright and IP in the school Curriculum so that the mind can be educated on the effects of piracy from the primary level, this can help to reduce or stem the tide of piracy.

DG NCC: The moment you cross the threshold of Fair Dealing which is what the Copyright Act says, then it will be infringement. Fair Dealing is where the use of the work is minimal and for research criticism and it does not unduly impact on the market value of the work. In other word you don’t use your fair dealing to threaten the market value of the author or the publisher, your dealing must be fair.

The digital revolution has turned out to be a double-edged sword. Despite the good benefits of the system, it has brought some challenges in terms of enforcement because at the tap of a button, you can turn out a million copies. Now we found ourselves looking for people in the dark alleys of the digital space to see what they are doing.

How has the enforcement been in the publishing space?

Mr. ABIMBOLA: In terms of enforcement, we cannot do that alone at the NPA level that is why we have the NCC with the regulatory powers and we are doing it together. On the challenges of enforcement, because of the nature of our society in terms of resources to fight the pirates, we go out on education to the markets and we also go out on raids, to enhance this process, we have signed MOU with the NCC in this regard. Another challenge is the presence of so many bookshops and some of them are not actually into the business but for shady practices, it is difficult to identify the genuine booksellers from those who are not.

We are currently embarking on a registration scheme for anybody who wants to sell books to register and it is compulsory. There is a space for them to register with a genuine address to facilitate normal monitoring. We only want those who are truly ready for the business to exist.

DG NCC: We look at the different areas and we have a commitment to advance until we bring this illicit activity to a manageable level. One of the complexities in enforcement now is because so many sectors are involved. The models seem to play out in different areas. In the music scene we have to spend more time on the online space but when it comes to the book industry we have to go beyond the publishers and printers to the bookshops and the schools to ensure there is a proper documentation of the source of their purchase.

It is risky for schools to stock pirated books and begin to sell them to students because when we see them, we don’t treat them as school but as distributors or sellers of pirated materials.

For the printers they should know that minimum documentation is required of them. They must keep register of works. As a printer, you must have a job order and you must have your due diligence with proper clearance. If we find you printing and even as a publisher without that due diligence, we will treat you as a pirate. We take all that as part of our responsibility and our mandate.

There are challenges in every assignment but the primary focus is that you must pursue the pirate with all the resources and the strength that you have and with the collaboration of stakeholders like NPA, ANA and the rest we will continue to disseminate the message and anywhere we find pirates, we will go after them

How do you tackle the issue of those who want to go into self-publishing of their books?

DG NCC: Self-publishing is not a bad idea in itself but it comes with a whole lot because you are taking a step to handle a whole lot on your own. Protecting your work and providing safe corridor for it is not an easy task. I would encourage writers to engage publishers to enjoy the presumptions under the law. I also urge you to register their works, the good thing is that before the ink dries up on your work, copyright comes in.

Mr. Abimbola: Self-publishing is borne out of ignorance and sometimes greed. When you engage a reputable publishing firm, you get royalties yearly on your works depending on the copies produced. There is the issue of marketing your work and the entire value chain to deal with. Allow the professionals (publishers) to hand the publishing of your work and ensure that your contracts are properly tidied up to avoid shortchanging you, i assure you, you will have just recompense for your works.