by Peace Oluwadara, AJALA

Policy Issues: Commerce, Industry and Economic Growth.

The Director-General, Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr John Asein, has reportedly said that the country currently loses $3bn to piracy yearly, warning schools to stop patronising pirated books. According to him, piracy has wrecked many great men in the creative industry with some of them begging for survival having suffered immeasurable losses beyond monetary. The number of well-known practitioners in Nollywood, daily lamenting and seeking medical help, shows the magnitude of the problem. He urged Nigerians to look beyond the monetary loss and have compassion on these copyright owners. In his words, “the fight against piracy would be extended to schools and that proprietors and heads of such schools that patronise pirated books would be sanctioned.”

Comments 

“The engine of technological breakthroughs throughout the economy was innovation, spearheaded by new entrepreneurs and businessmen eager to apply their new ideas.”[2]

  • Chapter 1, Page 45, Acemoglu & Robinson’s Why Nations Fail

The greatest resource and bedrock of every civilization is its creativity, innovation and invention as these all serve to boost the economy of a nation. In an attempt to prioritize these values which invariably foster development, copyright protection evolved. The short-term goal of this protection is to encourage dissemination of information; provide employment and economic benefit to the owner; and reserve the ownership of the right in it to the creator of the work. The long-term goal however spans way beyond these; it ultimately propels the society forward, makes it more enlightened, the people more industrious, the market preponderant and the economy far better than it ever was. Unfortunately, both the short- and long-term goals of this protection have been hampered by a constant abuse and infringement of this right. Unauthorized acts of reproduction and distribution of protected works, take place daily, on a commercial scale in the Nigerian market.

While the protection of these works is of utmost importance, who speaks for the bulk of the population who occupy the bottom of the country’s wealth pyramid? Truly, the Act provides for certain exceptions to copyright infringement and these in turn serve as defences for accused persons in the event of a suit. That the Director General seems to have forgotten that the law allows copyrighted works to be used and reproduced for educational purposes may be the least of the problems. This is because the defence availing such accused person can only be raised after the suit has been instituted. Unfair, this may seem. It is no news that that the wealth inequality gap in the Nigerian state is so wide that it may take years of deliberate effort backed up by the political will on the part of the government, to bridge same. What efforts or structures are then being put in place, in the interim?

In 2018, a UNICEF report recorded that Nigeria has an estimate of 10.5 million children aged 6-14, who are out of school.[3] Despite the situation, we continue to claim that children are the leaders of tomorrow. How exactly are the leaders of tomorrow going to make better decisions than today’s leaders, when the bulk of them are currently out of school? Much worsening is the fact that the ones whose parents manage to put them in schools, have no money to purchase materials and recommended texts. Hence the reason most students resort to unauthorized duplication of same, popularly known as photocopying. In no way whatsoever, is this a clamour for piracy to be tolerated under the guise of poverty. It is rather a call for better investment in the future of our nation, Nigeria. While the country is on a journey to poverty reduction and better standard of living for a majority, temporary mechanisms can be put in place to alleviate the burden that people are under.

It is worthy of note, that in every policy decision, there will always be gainers and losers, those who will be grossly affected and those who will benefit. Stakeholders in governance, who however have the interest of the people at heart, will do well to strive for as much balance as is possible, such that no party suffers extremely to the benefit of the other. To this end, alongside law enforcement strategies by the Copyright Commission and the Police Force, to adequately protect copyright owners, the Commission may also help implore its owners of protected works to make such works considerably affordable for the reading populace. The Ministry of Education and all related agencies may need to employ stakeholder engagement tools, in discovering the paramount needs of the system and deciding which to cater for in their order of priority and urgency.

J.O Asein said “we have to be more creative” and there is no truer saying. An end must come to lazy copying and regurgitation. Much more however, actors in governance must seek a reasonable degree of balance in implementing policies, for to give excessive benefits to one stakeholder, is to snuff out life from the right of another.

 

[1] This article was taken from The Punch Newspaper. Available at: https://punchng.com/nigeria-loses-3bn-to-piracy-yearly/. Date Accessed: 09/07/2019.

[2] D. Acemoglu and J. Robinson; The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty: Why Nations Fail.

[3] Premium Times; 69 per cent of Nigeria’s out-of-school children in the North – UNICEF. Available at: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/289641-69-per-cent-of-nigerias-out-of-school-children-in-the-north-unicef.html. Date Accessed: 09/07/2019.