Saturday, 27 December 2008

Nigeria Celebrates 20 Years of Copyright Law

December 19th marked the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the begining of Nigeria's current copyright law.  The 1988 Copyright Decree replaced the Copyright Act of 1970, which had, in the words of John Asein, become "inadequate for dealing with the growing incidence of piracy and other copyright abuses."  (The 1988 decree became the 1990 Copyright Act and was subsequently amended in 1992, 1999, 2004 and 2008.)

Former president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), Tony Okoroji (pictured right), offered his reflections on the past 20 years of Nigerian copyright law.  He discusses the difficulties he and his cohorts had in bringing the 1988 Copyright Decree into existence and touches on the current problems faced by copyright industries in Nigeria, such as the collecting society battles.  Okoroji's review, taken from his forthcoming book, Copyright & Neighboring Rights in Nigeria, is a bit lengthy, but quite informative.  Here's a brief summary:

Okoroji talks about the little amount of resources PMAN had when they began: " an unkempt secretariat with a backlog of rent, two unskilled and frustrated staff members who had not been paid for over a year, very little furniture, no telephone, one old Olympia typewriter, an incredible amount of expectation, a lot of debt and absolutely no money," and "a deluge of court cases."  Okoroji vowed to have a new copyright law ready by the end of 1987 or else he would resign.  When the end of 1987 arrived without the promised law, Okoroji says he attempted to resign, but was not allowed to do so.

Throughout 1987 and the beginning of 1988, Okoroji met with almost every minister in the Nigerian government.  By April 1988, he and the PMAN crew and various ministries had assembled a large and diversely qualified team to write the new copyright law.  The Ministry of Information and Culture played the largest role in this formation, which might explain why the Nigerian Copyright Commission was under this ministry until fairly recently when it was moved to the Ministry of Justice.  The team of lawyers, scholars, and other IP experts locked themselves into a hotel room in Lagos and began pounding out the statutory text.

After meeting with the Law Reform Commission, which previously unbeknownst to PMAN was also redrafting Nigeria's intellectual property laws, the PMAN group submitted their final combined draft to the Justice Minister.  Then months passed with nothing happening.  It took a major organized protest in late November to get the military government into action.  On December 19, 1988, the media announced that the President had signed the new Copyright Decree into law,  Merry Christmas PMAN.

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