Friday, 12 March 2010

Keeping Track without Requiring Registration, a New Approach in Nigeria

Criminal copyright enforcement, it can be a bit difficult without records of what is copyrighted and by whom.  Yet, under the Berne Convention (art. 5(2)), signatory countries cannot require any formalities as a prerequisite to copyright protection. 

Many countries still manage to have some sort of registry systems.  The United States, for example, gets around Berne by requiring registration not as a prerequisite to copyright protection, but as a prerequisite for US authors to bring an infringement suit, among other things.  Some other countries have pure voluntary registration systems.  Nigeria is one of these.

Copyright Notification Scheme

In 2005, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) introduced the Copyright Notification Scheme.  The purpose of the scheme is to create a registry database of all copyrighted works in Nigeria.  The NCC’s goal is to eventually have this database accessible world-wide through the NCC website, thus facilitating easy contact for rights and usage requests to the copyright owners.  Works submitted under the Copyright Notification Scheme are included in the NCC’s database, currently a ledger book, and the author is sent a Notification Certificate.  Submitting a work currently costs N6,000, about ZAR300 or US$40.

Uptake has been alright, but not as high as the NCC would like.  (The most recent data from the STRAP II report, shows 389 total registrations as of May 2007.)  In order to increase the number of submissions to the Copyright Notification Scheme, and thus increase the number of works in the country’s database, the NCC has taken initiative with a new approach.  The NCC has started reaching out directly to places producing high amounts of creative works, such as universities.

You’re Invited

Kwara_State[1] Last month, the University of Ilorin in Kwara state published an announcement in the Unilorin Bulletin highlighting the NCC’s invitation for authors to submit works for the Notification Scheme.  The announcement directs authors to the local NCC office, saving them the trouble of traveling to, or submitting their work via mail to, the head office in Abuja.

The approach seems to make sense; concentrate resources on reaching out specifically to those who have something to submit.  The question is whether the authors will see enough benefit in the scheme to pay the fee and fill out the form.

Confusion Consequences?

On an interesting side-note, Afro-Leo is a bit surprised to see the Bulletin say “NCC Invites authors to register.” (bold added)  The NCC has been very careful in the past when discussing the Copyright Notification Scheme to go out of the way to explain that it is NOT a registration system.  Presumably, this is to avoid any apparent conflict with Berne.  Most likely the editors of the Bulletin, and not the NCC, decided to use the term “register.” 

This is just one more point of confusion with the Copyright Notification Scheme in Nigeria.  Confusion also exists around the scheme’s purpose.  Some believe it actually is a registration required for copyright protection.  (Newspaper articles and editorials about piracy often will say something to the extent of ‘he doesn’t have a copyright because we checked the NCC registry and there’s no listing of his work.”)  The NCC attempts to dispel this myths, but its publications are not as widely read as the daily papers and entertainment gossip

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