Senate passes Copyright Bill to boost creative industry

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  • * NCC D-G Asein says passage ‘watershed in the development of copyright law in Nigeria’

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D-G, NCC, Dr. John Asein

THE Nigerian Senate on Wednesday, April 6, 2022 passed the Bill for an Act to Repeal the Copyright Act, Cap C28 LFN, 2004 and Enact the Copyright Act to Provide for the Regulation, Protection and Administration of Copyright and for Related Matters, as amended. Senate President, Ahmed Ibrahim Lawal, CON, sitting as Chairman of the Committee of the Whole, emphasised the importance of the Copyright Bill to the development of the creative industry and sustainable wealth creation in the national economy. He took the distinguished members carefully through the 107 clauses of the Bill and its schedule, leading eventually to its passage.

The Bill, which was laid before the upper chamber by Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, was the outcome of the harmonisation carried out by the Senate Joint Committee on Trade and Investment, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters. The Joint Committee had considered the Private Member Bill (SB 688) sponsored by Senator Mukhail A. Abiru (Lagos East Senatorial District) and the Executive Bill (SB 769) sponsored by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abubakar Abdullahi (Kebbi North Senatorial District), both of which were presented in 2021 to repeal the Copyright Act Cap C28, LFN, 2004 and to enact the Copyright Act, and for matters connected therewith.

Presenting the report of the Joint Committee, Senator Bamidele explained that the Bill sought to provide for a holistic review of the policy and legal framework for the effective regulation, protection and administration of copyright in Nigeria in line with global best practices.

In Bamidele’s words: “The overriding intents and purports of the Bill are to ensure that the Nigerian Copyright Commission, which is the statutory agency of government saddled with the responsibilities for the promotion of the use of the copyright system, as a tool for advancing the growth of the creative industry in Nigeria, is properly repositioned and strengthened in order to harness the potential of creativity for national development, particularly in today’s digital environment.”

Commenting further, Senator Bamidele stated that the four cardinal objectives of the Bill include strengthening the copyright regime in Nigeria to enhance the competitiveness of its creative industries in a digital and knowledge-based global economy, effectively protecting the rights of authors to ensure just rewards and recognition for their intellectual efforts while also providing appropriate limitations and exceptions to guarantee access to creative works, encouraging cultural interchange and advancing public welfare, facilitating Nigeria’s compliance with obligations arising from relevant international copyright treaties, and enhancing the capacity of the Nigerian Copyright Commission for effective administration and enforcement of the provisions of the Copyright Act.

While urging members to favourably consider the Bill, Senator Bamidele lamented that due to the inability of successive governments to update the copyright law in Nigeria, many businesses had disappeared and many creative experts in Nigeria were deprived of their legitimate rights to earn a living from their creative works. He also noted the adverse consequences of the weak administrative and legal framework, low criminal sanctions, inadequate pre-emptive provisions and the huge scale of copyright piracy and other copyright abuses. He therefore expressed optimism that the Bill would meet the expectations of stakeholders to streamline Nigerian copyright law with current realities and make room for more effective regulation, promotion and protection of the copyright of Nigerians.

Speaking after the passage of the Bill, the Senate Leader, Senator Abdullahi congratulated the two committees that worked on the Bill for work well done in harmonising the Private Member Bill and the Executive Bill to produce an excellent outcome.

Reacting, the Director-General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, (NCC), Dr. John O. Asein, who was at the Senate chamber to observe proceedings, described the passage of the Bill, as a watershed in the development of copyright law in Nigeria, describing it as the first successful legislative intervention in the field of intellectual property under a democratic regime. He expressed appreciation to the leadership of the Senate and the distinguished senators for the commitment demonstrated throughout the legislative process to complement the efforts of government to overhaul the copyright system. Asein also thanked stakeholders in the copyright industry for their resilience and support for the reform process.

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