The Position of The Nigerian Copyright Act in This Digital Age

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Photocredit: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/

By Olasupo Jubril Adedimeji

1.0 INTRODUCTION

The heritage of a nation remains the creativity of its citizens, and therefore one of the primary functions of law is to protect the ingenuity and innovation of the citizenry. Thus, the dictum of Belgore J. in Oladipo Yemitan v. The Daily Times Nigeria Ltd[2] is very apt when he said that: The right of a man to that which he had originally made is an incorporeal right and must be protected.[3] The impact of copyright in Nigeria has been duly appreciated by right-holders due to the right and protection given to their works. However, the advent of digital technology has created a lacuna in the right-holders heart due to the lack of assistance from the present copyright act.

As a prolegomenon to this discourse and the emphasis for an act that meets the need of society in respect to intellectual property in this 21st century cosmos, this writer, a student of law who is exceedingly resolute and unapologetically firm in providing a way to fortify the Nigerian Copyright Act[4] to suit this present time postulated that signing the 2015 copyright bill, domesticating relevant International treaties, upward review of the fine, adequate administrative measure, and going after online pirates are the most practical ways to meet the need of the digital age.

2.0 INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW IN NIGERIA

In Nigeria, a number of laws have a bearing on the protection and administration of the different rights that make up intellectual property (IP). However, one of the three principal statutes governing the intellectual property Law field in Nigeria is the Nigerian Copyright Act.[5] It is assuming importance in every facet of life today, beyond its original position, as a result of new developments in modern science and technology as well as challenges arising from the competitive nature of international trade.[6]

2.1 COPYRIGHT LEGISLATION

The extant law on the protection of copyrighted works in Nigeria is the Nigerian Copyright Act. The Copyright Act doesn’t proffer a definition for copyright,[7] but it is safe to state that it is legal protection granted to creators of creative expressions, whether Literary, Musical, Artistic, or Cinematographic works or an adaptation of any of these eligible works.[8] It confers an exclusive and assignable right to the originator of the work, to control the exploitation of his work for a limited period.[9]

Historically, Nigeria’s copyright law was first governed by the English Copyright Act 1911 which was made applicable to Nigeria by virtue of an order-in-council under Section 25 of the Act of 1911 of Great Britain[10] till the emergence of the first indigenous Nigeria Copyright Act in 1970. It has been stated that the 1970 Act was inadequate as it could not combat the increasing rate of piracy and other copyright infringements, coupled with the need to increase the penal sanctions and provide adequate remedial measures.[11] Thereupon the birth of the 1988 Act.

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The 1988 copyright Act was marred with a series of amendments within few years of its emergence.[12] It witnessed its first amendment in 1992 and secondly after seven years in 1999, till the current copyright Act known as the Nigeria Copyright Act Cap C28 (LFN) 2004. In 2012, the Nigerian Copyright Commission led the drafting of a new copyright bill, published in 2015. But the country’s National Assembly hasn’t passed it into law.[13] From the late 1990s, the global intellectual property regime encountered disruptive changes because of the influence of digital technology.

3.0 THE ADVENT OF DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY IN NIGERIA.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the world has witnessed advancement in scientific and technological innovations which have changed the face of society, leading many thinkers to term this present civilization ‘the jet age’.[14] This advancement has had an impact on the world’s legal systems, disrupting traditional modes of protection of IP and has left the law completely in a state of flux, due to the ever-changing forms of innovations; such as computers, phones, and the growing internet.[15]

It is in this vein that the Nigerian Copyright Act purports to protect IP works that approximately fall under any of the six genres protected under the Act.[16] Notwithstanding, the country remains the largest piracy destination and market in the world[17] as seen in the  2012 study by some industry analysts which revealed that “Nigeria is ranked among countries where piracy is most prevalent with rates as high as 82%, 83%, 83%, 82%, and 83% respectively in the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012.[18]

4.0 CHALLENGES OF THE COPYRIGHT LEGISLATION

Prof. Adebambo Adewopo SAN stated that the major challenge to IP protection that has given IP piracy new architecture and meaning is digital technology.[19] It has made it hard for right-holders to regulate and control the unauthorized distribution of their works.[20] Also, the ability of users and third parties to manipulate protected works online and on digital platforms blur the lines between the author and users of copyrighted works as well as the authorial integrity of these works.[21]

These are due to a lack of inadequate copyright protection, which has resulted in economic loss to the right owners while the government is denied revenue from legitimate products[22](A report by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in august, 2008, estimated the total annual loss of the content industries (Music Software and Video) within the nation to be well over N100, 000,000,000).

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This is in addition to the obvious moral and ethical reasons against unjust enrichment, intellectual theft, and fraudulent claims that characterize digital piracy and other IP abuses in our environment, affecting industries that have the potential to contribute millions of dollars to Nigeria’s economy.[23]

5.0 WAY FORWARD

  1. Nigeria Copyright Bill of 2015: Signing the bill will bring an end to the challenges characterized by the present situation due to the effective provisions in the bill.
  2. Domesticating International treaty obligation: There is a need to domesticate relevant treaties (like WIPO internet treaties) into law, for them to have a force of law has had already been done bythe U.S which has made their copyright system effective.
  3. An upward review of the fines will help the law to be properly administered in areas where there has been a breach of the same and it also would have been seen as justice well served.[24]

4.Administrative measures: The NCC should adopt administrative measures for the protection of copyright in digital works and work with local and international bodies to bring an end to infringement.[25]

  1. Going after individuals that engage in copyright infringement by forming a formidable team that will get their names from internet service providers (including university) as seen in the case of RIAA[26].[27]

6.0 CONCLUSION

Having critically dissected the copyright fast-growing field of intellectual property, I have lucidly brought out the definition of copyright which has been stated that it is a legal protection granted to creators of creative expressions, whether Literary, Musical, Artistic, or Cinematographic works or an adaptation of any of these eligible works. Equally, the paper skillfully analyzed the history of the copyright act till the present one.

In the same vein, this paper diagnosed the impact of digital technology in the field which was stated that it unveils the lacuna in the field which has affected the country by dint of the statistical fact of the industry analysts. Further, I x-rayed the challenges faced by the act and we respectfully submit that signing of the 2015 copyright bill, domestication of signed treaties, adequate administrative measures, going after online pirates, and proliferation in defaulters fine will make the Nigeria copyright act meet the demands of the digital age.

Olasupo Jubril Adedimeji is a sophomore student from Lagos State University. He may be reached via 07012013950 and jbdlearned100@gmail.com

Footnote

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[2] [1980] F.H.C.R. 186 at 190

[3] Hemen Philip Faga, ‘Limit of copyright protection in contemporary Nigeria: Re-examining the relevance of the copyright act in today’s digital and computer age’, < https://www.ajol.info/index.php/naujilj/article/download/82405/72560>, accessed 20th August 2020.

[4] Cap C28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

[5] Law Care Nigeria, ‘Intellectual Property in Nigeria Overview’, < https://lawcarenigeria.com/overview-of-intellectual-property-in-nigeria/>, accessed 20th August 2020.

[6] Penn JIL, ‘Intellectual property rights enforcement in Nigeria: Regulatory agencies to the rescue’, https://pennjil.com/intellectual-property-rights-enforcement-in-nigeria-regulatory-agencies-to-the-rescue/, accessed 20th August 2020.

[7] Oriakhogba and Fenemigho, ‘Development, concept, and scope of copyright protection in Nigeria: An overview’, < https://www.ajol.info/index.php/naujilj/article/download/136326/125816>, accessed 20th August 2020.

[8] Sandra Eke, ‘Fundamental elements of copyright ownership and protection under Nigerian law’, https://www.mondaq.com/nigeria/copyright/866284/fundamental-elements-of-copyright-ownership-and-protection-under-nigerian-law-sandra-eke, accessed 20th August 2020.

[9] S.1 (2) and S. 2 (3) Copyright Act, Cap C28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

[10] Oriakhogba and Fenemigho, ‘Development, concept, and scope of copyright protection in Nigeria: An overview’, < https://www.ajol.info/index.php/naujilj/article/download/136326/125816>, accessed 20th August 2020.

[11] Onoyeyan, Glory O, ‘Copyright Law and Photocopying Practice in Nigeria’, < https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1238&context=libphilprac>, accessed 20th August 2020.

[12] Fabian Odoh and Godwin Emeka Ngwu, ‘The Emerging Digital Age and Its Legal Impacts on Copyright Protection in Nigeria: The Need to Strategize’, < http://dj.univ-danubius.ro/index.php/AUDJ/article/view/7/221>, accessed 20th August 2020.

[13] Samuel Andrews, ‘Netflix Naija: creative freedom in Nigeria’s emerging digital space?’, < https://theconversation.com/netflix-naija-creative-freedom-in-nigerias-emerging-digital-space-133252>, accessed 20th August 2020.

[14] Hemen Philip Faga, ‘Limit of copyright protection in contemporary Nigeria: Re-examining the relevance of the copyright act in today’s digital and computer age’, < https://www.ajol.info/index.php/naujilj/article/download/82405/72560>, accessed 20th August 2020.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Femi Olubanwo and Oluwatoba Oguntuase, ‘Strengthening intellectual property rights and protection in Nigeria’, https://www.mondaq.com/nigeria/trademark/788714/strengthening-intellectual-property-rights-and-protection-in-nigeria?login=true, accessed 20th August 2020.

[19] Betram Nwannekanma, ‘Nigeria’s intellectual property laws not suitable for emerging commercial and technological development’, < https://m.guardian.ng/features/law/nigerias-intellectual-property-laws-not-suited-for-emerging-commercial-and-technological-development/>, accessed 20th August 2020.

[20] John Onyido,’Copyright in the digital age: Prospects and Challenges’, https://www.mondaq.com/nigeria/copyright/818860/copyright-in-the-digital-age-keynote-address-at-the-university-of-ilorin-intellectual-property-summit-2019, accessed 20th August 2020.

[21] Ibid.

[22] K.M Waziri, ‘Intellectual property and counterfeiting in Nigeria: The impending economic and social conundrum’, < https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6ff7/4134491971590ad1c3a9a3480d9a49c7d8e0.pdf>, accessed 20th August 2020.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Penn JIL, ‘Intellectual property rights enforcement in Nigeria: Regulatory agencies to the rescue’, https://pennjil.com/intellectual-property-rights-enforcement-in-nigeria-regulatory-agencies-to-the-rescue/, accessed 20th August 2020.

[25] Hemen Philip Faga, ‘Limit of copyright protection in contemporary Nigeria: Re-examining the relevance of the copyright act in today’s digital and computer age’, < https://www.ajol.info/index.php/naujilj/article/download/82405/72560>,  accessed 20th August 2020.

[26] Recording Industry Association Of America (RIAA)

[27] Constitutional Rights Foundation, ‘Bill of Rights in Action’, https://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/bria-23-4-b-digital-piracy-in-the-21st-century, accessed 20th August 2020.

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