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Mr. John O. Asein, DG, NCC
Stakeholders in the book sector were over the weekend told to work towards the formulation and adoption of a National Book Policy that would address the emerging issues in the sector. The Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. John O. Asein, gave the charge in his remarks at a copyright webinar organised by the Commission as part of the Virtual Nigerian International Book Fair, 2020 with the theme: “Information Technology as a Panacea for the Book Industry Sustainability Amidst the Covid-19 Pandemic”.
Mr. Asein noted that the COVID-19 pandemic presented practitioners in the book industry with an opportunity to redesign their business models, stressing that it was imperative for all those concerned to go back to the drawing board and address the new realities of today in order to guarantee a better tomorrow.
He tasked authors, publishers, printers, booksellers and others in the value chain to leverage on emerging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools to sustain their relevance in the industry. According to him, the Commission has harmonised its regulatory and enforcement framework for a balanced, responsive and sustainable copyright ecosystem that would continue to meet the needs of the wider creative sector.
The Director-General disclosed that in partnership with accredited bodies, the Commission would soon roll out measures to monitor the production, importation, warehousing, distribution and sale of books, lamenting the reckless abuse by pirates.
Stated he: “The Commission will also activate all provisions of the Copyright Act, including the obligation on publishers, printers, producers and manufacturers of copyright works to keep a register of works. Our primary objective is to provide a more congenial business environment for copyright business, check book piracy and promote effective management and enforcement of rights”.
He indicated that the proposed measures followed discussions between NCC and such stakeholders as the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), the Booksellers Association of Nigeria (BAN); and the Chartered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria (CIPPON), to develop appropriate technology-based solutions to some of the lingering problems in the industry.
Noting that Nigeria ratified the Marrakesh Treaty in October 2017 to enable persons who were blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled have access to published works, the Director-General also urged publishers to deploy information technology to ensure that more books were made accessible to such persons.
Stated he: “We urge relevant Government agencies at Federal and State levels to adopt a policy requiring all government funded book production or procurement agreements to include an obligation that the books should also be made available in formats that blind and visually impaired persons can access”.
He assured that the Commission would partner with the Nigeria Association of the Blind to follow-up on its collaboration with the Accessible Book Consortium (ABC) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for the training of publishers and braille production centres to promote the production of school books in accessible formats.
He condemned the rising incidence of illicit book sharing on WhatsApp groups, rogue e-libraries and fraudulent online bookstores, especially in the wake of the pandemic and e-learning solutions that it has forced on the education system. To this end, he assured right owners that the Commission would continue to monitor the online space and respond speedily to reports of copyright abuses.
Said Asein: “In the meantime, the newly established Online Inspectors Unit in the Commission’s Enforcement Department will also be taking preemptive actions to disrupt online infringements
Speaking on the “Challenges of Copyright Enforcement in the Digital Environment”, the Commission’s Director of Enforcement, Mr. Obi Ezeilo identified outdated laws, need to collaborate with different agencies responsible for aspects of online dealings, the difficulty in identifying true copyright owners and the reluctance of online service providers to take down infringing works, as some of the problems militating against effective enforcement of copyright online.
Other challenges identified included the problem of gathering evidence to prosecute online offenders, territorial nature of copyright law making it difficult to go against offenders domiciled outside Nigeria; and the frequent changes in technology in the digital environment.
Other resource persons at the webinar were the Deputy Director, Regulatory Department of NCC, Mrs. Susan Bashorun, who made a presentation on “Practical Guidelines for Copyright e-Registration System” and a Chief Copyright Officer, Mr. Kunle Olatunji, who presented a paper on “Management of Rights in Literary Works: Imperatives for the Digital Environment”.
The webinar, moderated by NCC Director of Regulatory Department, Mr. Augustine Amodu, drew participants from across different copyright related sectors.