THE Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), in the Year 2012, successfully prosecuted 31 copyright cases, 26 of which were criminal convictions of pirates and five civil suits. The Commission, between July 2011 and December 2012, however, secured 29 convictions of pirates of copyright-protected books, musical and movie works, broadcast signals and software products.
The Commission, during intensified anti-piracy operations last year, also arrested a total of 85 suspected pirates and confiscated over 3,620,992 million pirated goods worth over N4.78 billion (N4,780,050,000.00).
Director-General of NCC, Mr. Afam Ezekude made the disclosure yesterday in Abuja at a briefing to review the activities of the commission. Ezekude also revealed that the interagency partnership between the Commission and the Nigeria Customs has engendered the establishment of a protocol which makes it mandatory for any importer of copyright-protected goods to obtain a letter of clearance from the Commission as a condition for clearance and release of such regulated goods by the Customs at sea ports.
“One of the milestones of the Commission’s enforcement gains last year was its collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Service, which recorded an unprecedented confiscation of a total of 13 containers of 3.6 billion (3,613,315) units of pirated products, valued at four billion, seven hundred and fifty million Naira (N4.75 billion) at different seaports in the country,” he disclosed.
He noted that 11 of the containers were stacked with pirated books of Nigerian and foreign authors while the remaining two were loaded with pirated musical and film works of local and foreign titles.
The Director-General stated that on January 25, 2012 in Epe, Lagos State, the Commission also destroyed by public burning 722 million units of various categories of copyright infringing products impounded between 2007 and 2011, estimated at N6.5 billion. “The purpose was to demonstrate the Commission’s commitment to its zero tolerance policy on piracy and to send out a warning signal that piracy would no longer be a profitable venture in the country”, he stated.
According to him, the Commission has initiated a mechanism for the reform of the Nigerian copyright system, a process expected to engender a far-reaching amendment of the Nigerian Copyright Act as well as create an enabling environment for enhanced development of the nation’s creative industries.
The Director-General indicated that the NCC had taken steps towards gazetting of the Copyright (Levy of Materials) Order 2012 with a view to commencing its implementation in the first quarter of this year, adding that this was sequel to the approval the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, granted the Commission on November 15 last year for issuance of the Levy Order.
He revealed that implementation of the Levy Order will commence in the first quarter of this year after its gazetting and following a working visit of the Commission’s implementation team to the Copyright Office in Accra, Ghana, to understudy the workings of a similar scheme in that jurisdiction.
“The Levy Order is applicable to all materials used or capable of being used to infringe copyright in a work and is designed to compensate the right owners for the envisaged infringement,” he pointed out.
Giving further details, the Director-General informed that the Commission instituted a total of 44 criminal cases in 2012 while it is currently prosecuting a total of 80 copyright cases nationwide.
He underscored the deterrent implication of the total of six and a half years sentence imposed without the option of a fine on December 17, 2012 by the Federal High Court, Benin, on one Godwin Kadiri on his conviction on a four-count charge of broadcast piracy, in case No. FHC/B/43C/2010.
While noting that that was the highest penalty imposed for copyright piracy so far, the NCC head called for more of such damning convictions and penalties in order to send a strong signal to the barons and industry of piracy that in line with the Commission’s zero-tolerance policy on piracy, it is no longer business as usual.
He also pointed out that an indication of the Commission’s proactive enforcement measures was its arrest of 26 suspected pirates and seizure of N2.3 million worth of copyright infringing musical and computer-based facilities during an antipiracy raid carried out by Copyright Inspectors in New Haven, New Layout and Garki areas of Enugu State on December 21, last year.
In a breakdown of the Commission’s enforcement interventions in 2012, the Director-General informed that the total seizures of infringing products were 722,005,311 units in the first quarter of last year; 48 units in the second quarter; 2,043,293 units in the third quarter and 1,572,340 units in the fourth quarter of the year.
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