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REPRONIG takes copyright licensing campaign to tertiary institutions

The level of photocopying and downloads going on in Nigerian tertiary institutions is significantly high. There is need therefore for a system through which authors and publishers would be adequately compensated for their works. The NWG was organised in collaboration with the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU) and with support from the Nigerian Copyright Commission.
 
This was the position of the National Working Group of Reproduction Rights Societies of Nigeria (REPRONIG), as they rose from a two-day meeting on the copyright licensing in tertiary institutions. Incorporated in the year 2000, REPRONIG is an umbrella body of various copyright owners’ associations, including Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Academic and Non-fiction Authors Association of Nigeria (ANFAAN), and National Association of Translators and Interpreters (NATI). Others are; Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA) and Photographers Association of Nigeria (PAN).
 
Representatives of these bodies met in Abuja, last week, to strategise on the implementation of licensing for copyright reproduction in higher institutions. In fact, the major focus of the meeting was to develop a framework for collective management and licensing of rights in tertiary institutions for the benefit of authors and publishers.

 
The group, which was chaired by the immediate past Vice Chancellor, Landmark University, Professor Aize Obayan, was also charged with the responsibility of examining and defining roles of the various stakeholders in the efficient implementation of licensing for copyright reproduction.
 
It was also expected to recommend appropriate strategies for ensuring that authors and tertiary institutions maximise the benefits derivable from the system of collective management of rights, and consider the terms of a draft licensing framework.
 
Meanwhile, participants at the meeting were drawn from the National Universities Commission (NUC), National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), Nigerian Law School and the heads of tertiary institutions.
  
Also at the meeting were representatives of various associations under REPRONIG.
  
The lead facilitator was the former Chief Executive Officer, Australian Copyright Agency and Vice President, International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO), Mr. Jim Alexander.
 
While inaugurating the National Working Group last week, Director General, Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr. Afam Ezekude, stated that the occasion has provided an opportunity for sharing of information on the importance of development in copyright administration, as well re-emphasised the relevance of copyright system to national development.
 
Admitting that the distribution of copyright content has assumed worrisome dimension in the country, the D.G called for a strong synergy between right owners, investors in creative works, tertiary institutions, as well as commercial enterprises.
 
According to him, “It is against this background that we commend the present initiative of REPRONIG in adopting the dialogue and enlightenment approach as a prelude to its licensing drive. It is our expectation that this will provide a platform for more intense engagement towards finding an effective solution to the issue of appropriate remuneration for reprographic activities of organised institutions and the private sector.”
 
At the Nigerian Copyright Commission, the DG said, efforts are ongoing to reform the framework of the copyright protection to proactively respond to the challenges of the digital environment.
 
Earlier, REPRONIG Chairman and President, Nigerian Academy of Letters, Professor Olu Obafemi, stated that the meeting was in recognition of the important role participants had to play in rescuing the tertiary book industry in Nigeria. He noted that Nigerian authors were some of the most brilliant and celebrated in the world in various disciplines, including in fiction and non-fiction, but decried the pitiable fortunes of authors and publishers.
 
According to him, the inauguration of NWG was a demonstration of the society’s new policy of inclusiveness and consultations towards addressing the collective management of rights in the literary field, as a first step in finding an enduring solution to some of the challenges that threaten its sustainability.
 
“Studies have confirmed the huge volume of photocopying and reckless abuse of copyright that goes on in our tertiary institutions. One would have thought that the heads of these institutions, themselves being authors, would be more concerned.
 
“Unfortunately, the experience of the REPRONIG in the last two decades of its operation has been one of total neglect and even disdain from the institutions.
 
“With the exception of Covenant University, no other university in Nigeria has ever deemed it fit to obtain a reproduction licence. By taking a blanket licence, a tertiary institution will not only be avoiding the legal repercussion of the activities of its staff and students, it will also be showing the need to respect copyright, promote and encourage creativity.”
 
The chairman noted that members of the Working Group were carefully chosen to represent all major stakeholder groups, including the agencies responsible for the setting of standards for tertiary institutions, adding: “If Nigerian institutions are to be globally competitive, it is imperative that we begin to insist on global best practices. Together, we speak the same language and that is to ensure adequate recompense for the authors and publishers.”
 
While commending the Federal Executive Council for recently approving the ratification of four copyright treaties, Obafemi tasked government on early deposit of the instrument of ratification.
 
“And to translate this to concrete gains for Nigeria, we also appeal to government to hasten the transmission of the draft Copyright Bill to the National Assembly for early passage,” he said.
  
Ahead of the meeting, Obafemi had visited NUC with his team, where he sought the collaboration of the commission in managing the rights of authors and publishers, particularly at the tertiary level.
 



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