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 number of convictions shows a phenomenal increase from 10 convictions recorded by the Commission in 10 years, between 2000 and 2010.
Director-General of NCC, Mr. Afam Ezekude who disclosed this at a media briefing in Abuja last Friday, also revealed that the Commission, during intensified anti-piracy operations last year, arrested a total of 85 suspected pirates and confiscated 3,621,787 million units of pirated goods worth about N4.38 billion (N4,379,431,000.00).
“This feat which had never been recorded in the 22 years of the Commission can be traced to the enhanced surveillance activities of the Commission’s operatives, support of stakeholders, and more importantly, our synergy with the Nigerian Customs Service under our Inter-Agency collaboration initiative”, he stated.
The Director-General also revealed that the inter-agency 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.
He noted that the high point of the Commission’s enforcement measures in collaboration with the Customs was the historic and unprecedented confiscation of a total of 13 containers of 3.6 million 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 pointed out that 11 of the containers were loaded 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 essence of the exercise was to ensure that the materials are permanently prevented from entering into the channels of trade; and also send a warning signal to perpetrators of piracy that it was no longer business as usual”, he stated,
The NCC boss who noted that there was an improved international rating of Nigeria in the global fight against piracy stated that the enhanced protection of local and foreign copyright works attracted increased investment in the copyright based industries. “There are clear indications of a reduction in the level of domestic piracy which impacted positively in the legitimate copyright businesses as operators have reported over 50% increase in the profit margin for the year under review”, he added.
According to him, the Commission, last year, initiated a mechanism for the reform of the Nigerian copyright system to address the challenges that modern digital technology pose to the country’s existing inadequate copyright frameworks.
Noting that Nigeria was the first African country to undertake the comprehensive copyright reform as did China, India and Brazil, the Director-General stated: “The goals of the reform process include; updating the Copyright Act to meet the challenges of the digital age; to encourage and reward new forms of creativity and provide a platform for the creation, commercialization and broad diffusion of new knowledge, while enabling Nigerian businesses to profit from expanding global trade in cultural goods, which is currently heavily skewed in favour of countries with fully developed copyright systems”.
He revealed that the Commission, also last year, obtained the approval of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to issue the Copyright ?Levy on Materials? Order 2012.
“The new Order establishes a regime of compulsory levy on materials used or capable of being used to infringe copyright in a work. The new Copyright Levy Order is informed by the need to compensate right owners for the loss that they would obviously suffer from the illicit copying of their works, and to maintain an acceptable international standard of protection that would ensure the betterment of the lot of authors” he pointed out.
In collaboration with Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and other stakeholders in the film industry, the Commission, according Ezekude, commenced the process of establishing a CMO for the movie industry last year. He added that the process has received positive support from the different segments of the film industry.
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 significance and deterrent implication of two major convictions of pirates during the year. The first, representing the highest fine imposed for copyright piracy was in charge No. FHC/KD/8C/12, where the Federal High Court, Kaduna sentenced the accused, one Sunday Ayodele, on February 23, 2012, to one and a half years imprisonment with the option of N250,000.00 (Two hundred and fifty thousand naira) fine. The second was the highest penalty imposed for copyright piracy so far, in case No. FHC/B/43C/2010 where the Federal High Court, Benin, December 17, 2012, sentenced on one Godwin Kadiri to a total of six and a half years without the option of a fine, on his conviction on a four-count charge of broadcast piracy.
The Director-General 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.
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