By Anote Ajeluorou
The global fight against copyright infringement and the need to pay for use of rights took centre stage last week, when stakeholders from the global copyright community gathered in Lagos to raise awareness on Collective Management of Copyright. Participants came from Europe, America and several African countries to rob minds on the imperatives of protecting intellectual property rights, which are endangered all over the world, but especially in Africa.
The international rights’ organisations that attended the seminar included International Federation of Reproductive Rights Organisation (IFRRO), Belgium, Rights Clearance Centre, U.S., Copyrights Licensing Agency, United Kingdom, World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), Africa Reproductive Intellectual Property Organisations (ARIPO) and hosted by Nigeria Copyright Commission, (NCC) and Reproductive Rights Society of Nigeria (Repronig), led by its chairman and secretary, Prof. Olu Obafemi and Mr. Jare Ajayi respectively.
At its media parley, Obafemi said the seminar presented a historic moment, as it was the first time his organisation gained the confidence of international bodies to visit Nigeria to deliberate on copyright issues and chart a better future for everyone in the copyright system. For them at Repronig, Obefemi stated that it was a privilege to host the seminar.
“We’ve been looking at ways of minimising activities of people who want to deny copyright owners of reward for creators of copyright materials,” he said. “Creators of works need to be rewarded in a world that is growing in knowledge”.
Also in welcoming the global bodies, Obafemi said his organization, Repronig, “is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that those who legally reproduce copyrighted works in Nigeria pay tokens for doing so. Its mandate covers works produced by academic and non-academic writers, scholars, visual arts, translators, journalists and photographers.
“We are all engaged in intellectual work in one form or another. We are all aware of the damage, which actions such as plagiarism, piracy and unauthorized reproduction of literary or visual works does. It has ruined a lot of artists just as it serves as disservice to creativity. Repronig, in league with the Nigerian Copyright Commission, has the mandate of exposing the evils inherent in unauthorized reproduction of intellectual property and in ensuring that authors of intellectual works get compensated for their efforts”.
Obafemi also condemned all forms of terrorism and threats to human life in all parts of the work, saying it had direct consequences on creators of intellectual works, as everyone was a potential or actual creator of intellectual property, and added, “We place a lot of premium on creators of intellectual works. It is in this respect that news of increasing threats to human life and physical attacks in different parts of the world gives us a lot of concern.
“Every individual is an intellectual rights owner potentially or in actuality. We are calling on politicians and governments in various countries where this is happening to urgently find a lasting solution to it just as we appeal to the conscience of evil perpetrators to desist”.
On his part, NCC boss, Mr. Afam Ezekude, who was represented by Chris Nwocha, raised the hope of stakeholders in Nigeria’s creative sector of the possibility of licensing yet another Collective Management Organisation (CMO) apart from Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) to accommodate creators of works not represented by the latter. This may appear an indirect way of the commission recanting its earlier and alleged ill-conceived stand of licensing a monopolistic CMO in a democratic setting that encourages trade liberation.
According to Ezekude, “Apart from enhancing our oversight functions on collective management organisations, we are also encouraging right owners who are otherwise not represented in the existing collective management framework to work towards establishing new collective management organisations in separate fields of collections. I wish to mention the recent establishment of the Audiovisual Rights Society by stakeholders in the Nigerian film industry. The commission has closely monitored the process of this group and is satisfied with its broad-based composition, which reflects the interests of the majority of stakeholders in that industry”.
He expressed hope that the seminar would “provide new insights in collective management and assist authors and managers of collective management organisations to refocus on their on mandates and come up with more pragmatic measures of addressing their operational challenges”.
Chief Executive Officer of IFRRO, Mr. Olav Stokkmo, said his organisation was a network for protecting rights worldwide and represented in 140 countries. He stated that last year alone, it raked in $1.2 billion, which it disbursed to rights owners, noting, “We defend copyright owners and journalists. Intellectual right is human rights; it’s human rights to protect the rights of authors, composers and creators of intellectual property. The issue is to make the difference between what is legal and what is not. The world is about sharing, but it has to be done legally”.