THE Pan-African Writers Association (PAWA) has been charged to partner with heads of copyright offices in Africa to strengthen the copyright system and ensure that authors get adequate returns on their intellectual investments. The Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Dr. John O. Asein made the call while receiving the Secretary-General of PAWA, Dr. Wale Okediran, who paid a courtesy visit to the commission’s headquarters, Abuja recently. This was contained in a release made available to newsmen by the Director of Public Affairs Department of the commision, Mr. Vincent A. Oyefeso.
Commending the NCC on the recent enactment of the Copyright Bill by the National Assembly, PAWA Secretary-General expressed appreciation to Nigerian government and assured that the association would support any action that would improve the lot of writers in Africa. He observed that the constraints of copyright infringements, piracy and plagiarism were hindering writers from pursuing their writing careers successfully.
While calling for prompt action in granting assent to the Bill, Dr. Okediran noted that the new Bill has made Nigeria a good rallying point in the African region to enthrone strong copyright laws for protection of the rights of authors and right owners.
“It is a catalyst for PAWA to engage more with African governments and copyright offices in Africa, as we have been in the vanguard of ensuring strong copyright laws in Africa”, he stated, and also reaffirmed PAWA’s commitment in partnering with the commission to ensure that the Bill would be used as a model for other African countries.
Speaking in the light of the new Copyright Bill, Dr. Asein commended stakeholders who contributed to the copyright reform project that culminated in the Bill and hoped that “the Nigerian experience would benefit other African countries who are also in the process of modernising their copyright system.”
He noted that the new bill, when assented to, would bring a lot of relief to authors, considering the provisions for stiffer sanctions for piracy, the ease of handling online infringements and the flexibilities allowing for learning materials in accessible formats for the benefit of the blind, visually impaired persons and persons who are otherwise print-disabled.
Dr. Asein further enjoined PAWA and the relevant associations in the literary sector to encourage their members to use their literary prowess to draw attention to the ills of piracy and other copyright abuses in order to bring about attitudinal change in society and a healthy copyright culture.
Assuring of NCC’s commitment to better protection of the rights of authors, Dr. Asein added that the commission recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to ensure that only legitimate books and other copyright materials were sold in the nation’s airports and their environs.
In a related development, the National Library of Nigeria (NLN) and other libraries in Nigeria have been urged to always respect the copyright of authors and operate in line with global best practices. The Director-General, Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Dr. Asein made the call recently while receiving the National Librarian and CEO of National Library of Nigeria (NLN), Prof. Chinwe Veronica Anunobi and her management team during a courtesy visit to NCC headquarters, Abuja.
Dr. Asein pointed out that while the digitisation of library materials might be necessary to preserve them, the copyright in such works must always be respected. He counseled that such compliance with the tenets of copyright would not only insulate the library from adverse claims but also attract more support from serious partners within and outside the country.
He noted that most right owners were averse to digitisation of their works due to lack of standard safeguards and assurance that the system would not jeopardise their copyright interests.
“Any digitisation project should entail getting it right at the policy and technical levels to ensure seamless and legally safe implementation”, he stated, adding that the NCC was prepared to work with the National Library and other stakeholders in the library sector to enlighten librarians on copyright best practices and help set standards on acceptable thresholds for use of resources in line with the rules on fair dealing.
The Director-General also renewed the commission’s call for all government-funded publications to be made available not only in print for the sighted but also in accessible formats for the use of the blind, visually impaired and print-disabled persons. To this end, he urged the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) to make this a standing policy for all its funded book projects.
Earlier in her remarks, Prof. Anunobi had expressed concern over the deterioration of the country’s national heritage and knowledge assets and expressed the interest of the National Library of Nigeria in the digitisation of materials in its catalogue for the purpose of preservation.
She called on the NCC for technical guidance in addressing the legal and copyright issues associated with the proposed digitisation. The National Librarian also expressed her commitment to the promotion of open access as a means of making knowledge materials available especially for the purpose of education and learning.
The two chief executives agreed on the need for both agencies to work together for the sustainable growth of the knowledge ecosystem and to promote reading culture in Nigeria.