By Anote Ajeluorou
Nigeria’s rights owners are some of the worse hit in terms of infringements or abuse. This came to the fore again last week when Reproduction Rights Society of Nigeria (REPRONIG) held a seminar to mark World Copyright Day in Ibadan
Guest speaker, literary critic and teacher at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Olalere Oladitan, brought the issue of rights abuse home when he cited instances of tertiary institutions’ administrators being the worse culprits in the abuse of the rights of owners of intellectual property. And what was worse, universities, polytechnics and colleges of education administrators are in actual denial of such abuse, especially the abuse of illicit photocopying of books, journals and other intellectual materials.
A year ago, chairman of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) Chief Tony Okoroji raised the alarm and asked the authorities of University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos to close down its battery of licensed photocopying operators situated in the Faculty of Arts complex. He made that demand at a seminar on copyrights organised by Dtalk Shop, a Lagos-based rights advocate, held at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. He had remarked that as one wound his way to the legal department through the Faculty of Arts complex, one is assailed by the array of photocopying operators doing brisk but illegal business and feasting on copyrighted works.
For a university authority at the forefront of intellectual property creativity as UNILAG, as well as other tertiary institutions nationwide, to allow their premises to be so used in the abuse of rights of intellectuals, with some of them staff, could best be regarded as a shame and the worse disservice to intellectual output.
According to Olalere, REPRONIG in its wisdom had made representations to Nigeria’s higher institutions to pay a token for such illegal photocopying. Of the lot only Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, a private university, saw the sense in seeing that such photocopying should benefit the owners of the works. In a year, REPRONIG wants students to pay about N550 while lecturers pay about N250 for all photocopying done and for such monies to be remitted to authors across board through REPRONIG.
While speaking on ‘Nurturing Creativity through an Appropriate Reward System’, Olalere affirmed the primacy of creativity and the need to protect and reward such creations, saying the creative process deserved respect, which was still lacking in Nigeria’s clime. He lamented that those creatively endowed did not receive appropriate reward in a porous system such as Nigeria’s where little value was placed on the brain that ought to produce the money that is shamelessly being worshopped.
He also stated the importance of REPRONIG to creators of intellectual works, especially since they could not fight for their own rights, and charged university vice chancellors, publishers, rectors of polytechnics and colleges of education to play their appropriate roles and start respecting the rights of owners of works by paying for them as required of them.
“Intellectual property already has value,” he stated, “but let creators be properly rewarded so more value can be added to intellectual property. Let appropriate rewarded as of right be given to intellectual property rights owners”.
In his opening remarks as chairman of the occasion and Vice Chancellor of Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State, Prof. Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi, reflected on the Nigerian situation and how little value was being accorded academic and intellectual work, saying it was also a reflection of a weak development quest that may well scuttle Nigeria’s Vision 20/2020 seen as an empty mantra not being backed up by appropriate action.
He noted, “How we treat intellectual property rights is a reflection of the value we place on academic or intellectual abilities. We worship money; as long as we do so, we will be far away from industrial development. We don’t value research and works of intellectuals. Until we change our approach to intellectual property rights, as long as we don’t cherish what we have, we can’t develop; it’s the foundation of our industrial and cultural development. Sadly, we don’t have the love of protecting intellectual works.
“Until we place value on all facets of our national life, we may not move forward. We need to start laying the foundation for our children to progress”.
He also charged REPRONIG to embark on “programmes of enlightenment to sensitise the populace to raise people’s consciousness concerning all manners of reproduction or copying, printing, photocopying, scanning, digital copying on CDs and DVDs, and electronic storage of datas… The intellectual community must be made aware of the laws guiding reproduction for private use and reproduction for office use.
“Finally, all citizens of Nigeria owe it a duty to rally REPRONIG in its onerous task of helping the nation to restore academic dignity and its assignment of assisting to protect, reward intellectual properties in our Ivory Towers and the general public”.
On his part, chairman of the collecting body and university teacher, Prof. Olu Obafemi, drew attention to the work of REPRONIG to include “ensuring that those who legally reproduce copyrighted works in Nigeria pay a token for doing so; it’s mandate covers works produced by academic and non-academic writers, scholars, visual artists, translators, journalists and photographers”. He said the body derived its powers from The Copyright Act 1988 (as variously amended) and that it was an affiliate member of the International Federation of Reproductive Rights Organisation.
REPRONIG’s Acting Executive Secretary, Mr. Jare Ajayi, listed members of REPRONIG to include Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), Association of Non-Fiction and Academic Authors of Nigeria (ANFAAN) and Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN). Others are National Association of Translators (NATI), Photographers Association of Nigeria (PAN) and Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC).
He also stated the mandate of REPRONIG to include licensing “those who want to reproduce literary, artistic and visual works”, and that the commonest being photocopying, which was usually flagrantly violated in academic environments.
NCC’s Director-General, Mr. Afam Ezekude, who was represented by a director in its Ibadan office, Mr. Tunde Adetula, also made presentation to the effect that everyone needed to protect intellectual works so it could be rewarding to those who produced them.
Also, Prof. Lekan Oyegoke lamented Nigeria’s poor attitude towards knowledge, saying it was very depressing and that it had implication for the nation’s quest for developmental. He said Nigeria was yet to recognize that ‘knowledge is power’, which requires diligence to nurture. He noted that with such negative and anti-excellence factors like federal character, quota system deliberately entrenched in the polity and designed to short-change merit, it would take Nigeria a long time to realise its true potentials in the area of development.
Bells University of Technology Vice Chancellor, Prof. Adeyemi, pledged his institution’s intention to pay REPRONIG’s token as demanded, and tasked other institutions to shun every form of denial and pay up as well.
Other dignitaries present were Prof. Femi Osofisan, Tope Olaifa, Feyi Smith, SNA president, Uwa Usen, Dr. A.A. Abiodun, Dr. Bayo Adebowale, Lambert Ihebuzor, Prince Isaac Preboye, and Adeleye Makinde.