Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. John O. Asein has said that Online service providers, including hosts of e-libraries, would be held responsible for any copyright infractions on their platforms.
Asein, who declared this recently during deliberations with the newly elected executive of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) at the Commission’s Head Office in Abuja, said that the Commission was paying more attention to online activities with a view to curbing the sale of pirated books through online stores.
Addressing a seven-man delegation led by the new ANA President, Mr. Camillus Ukah, accompanied by its immediate past President, Mr. Denja Abdullahi, the Director-General called on ANA to constitute an anti-piracy committee to interface with the Commission for proactive, sustained and effective anti-piracy campaign.
He decried contract gaps between authors and publishers in the country and indicated that the Commission would collaborate with ANA to develop model contracts to ensure proper rights clearance and adequate remuneration for authors in the book industry.
Noting that the absence of proper contractual agreements between authors and publishers has left many authors with unpleasant experiences, the Director-General also observed the necessity for new business models to ensure adequate recompense for authors, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stressing the importance of the literary field, Mr. Asein noted that creative writing was the bedrock of the wider creative industry, including Nollywood. In his words: “The movie industry could not have been where it is today without the literary talents turning out excellent film scripts. The author of the film script is often unsung, but they set the tone for good films and, like the faces of Nollywood, these scriptwriters also deserve to be celebrated,” he stated.
The Director-General gave special commendation to the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka for recently demonstrating his unalloyed commitment to copyright values and lending his voice to denounce copyright infringement and abuses. He said the Commission would be pleased to adopt the Nobel Laurette as a Copyright Champion to help fight book piracy in the country. He called on other notable authors to also step up support for the campaign against copyright piracy.
The Director-General urged ANA members to take advantage of the Commission’s copyright e-registration system and avail themselves of the whistleblowing policy of the NCC by alerting the Commission on suspected pirates for effective enforcement. “We should not allow rogues to take over the copyright space. ANA should intensify its copyright enlightenment campaign and encourage its members to sound an alarm wherever they find pirates at work. The Commission, on its part, pledges to always respond promptly to any alarm,” he stated.
While calling on the new executive to upscale the association’s reading campaign, the Director-General urged ANA to support the efforts of the Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB) to make more books available in accessible formats for the benefit of blind and visually impaired persons.
He further thanked ANA for helping to sustain the Reproduction Rights Society of Nigeria (REPRONIG) and expressed hope that REPRONIG would be assisted further to become a viable collective management organisation (CMO) for the benefit of Nigerian authors. “When CMOs are threatened with extinction, we owe them a lifeline to keep afloat”, he said.
Mr. Asein commended the enviable legacy of visionary leadership in ANA, adding that the Association has demonstrated quality leadership, worthy of emulation in the creative industry.
The newly elected President of ANA, Mr. Camillus Ukah, stated that the Association was committed to reforms and strengthening of the copyright regime to address gaps in a bid to promote the economic interests of authors and advance the literary industry.
He expressed appreciation for the Commission’s proactive measures towards checking piracy, citing its recent timely intervention to curb the online piracy of books belonging to the literary icon, Professor Wole Soyinka.
Mr. Ukah lauded the Commission’s long-standing cooperation that the Association has enjoyed, particularly during the reform of the copyright system and assured of its continued collaboration with NCC.
The ANA President further assured the Commission that the new executive would work closely with the NCC to promote copyright knowledge among authors and ensure that literary authors continued to use the copyright system optimally.
Representatives of the Commission and ANA were constituted into a working group to identify areas of immediate interest and facilitate collaboration.
Other newly elected ANA executives in attendance were Mrs. Farida Mohammed, Vice President; Mr. Mark Ortserga, General Secretary; Mr. Freeman Okosun, Assistant General Secretary; Mr. Torlafia Benjamin Terhile, Legal Adviser and Mr. Umar Yogizaj, Publicity Secretary, North.