Thursday, 4 September 2014

Nigeria Welcomes Online Copyright Registration

capture 108 The Nigerian Copyright Commission has announced an online registration system called NCeRS, Nigerian Copyright e-Registration System.  The new system is available on the NCC website – in fact, when this Little Leo went to the usual site, she was greeted by a nice big pop-up encouraging her to register her work at the NCeRS url

The NCeRS site includes more than just a registration portal.  There is nice FAQ section that answers question about registration and copyright generally.  The searchable database is a great feature.  It’s unclear whether or not the database is already running (and Little Leo just couldn’t make any good guesses about already registered works to find) or if it will be populated as the digital registrations come in. The database search isn’t quite as user-friendly as the US Copyright Office’s.  For example, in the NCC database, you have to know whether the name you’re searching is the Author or the Copyright Owner.  In the US database, you can search one name in multiple fields at the same time.  Also, “Keyword” usually means searching for a word or phrase in any field.  In the NCC database, the “Keyword” field is a drop-down menu where you have to choose the work type, another category that would sometimes be nice to leave blank.

A few other links to additional services currently redirect to the home page, so it looks like NCC will be rolling out more features as the program continues to be built.

Little Leo Tries Registering a Work

Registering for an NCeRS account was pretty easy.  The free-form box for address is nice when dealing with registrants from multiple jurisdictions.  Beware: this is one of those systems that will email you your password once you register. Don’t use a password you use anywhere else.

Once you’re logged in, the site takes you to a Dashboard showing the status of all your applications.  This is pretty neat and a bit nicer than the US eCo system (with which Little Leo is more familiar), because it divides the cases by status for an easy glance-over.

The registration form is pretty simple and straight-forward, at least for a copyright attorney.  General creators may stumble a little on questions like “Medium of Fixation.”  The drop-down menu helps, although it has a limited list of mediums: CD, VCD, DVD, VHS, Audio Tape, Paper.  There’s nothing for other digital fixations such as hard-drives, which is particularly interesting since the Nigerian Copyright Act explicitly protects computer programs as literary works.  Does a computer program need to be saved on a CD before it can be registered?

For works already registered in another jurisdiction, the form allows inputting information about any existing registrations.  Obtaining the physical certificate from the NCC may be a little difficult for anyone outside of Nigeria.  The form suggests certificates must be picked up in person from one of the NCC’s 15 listed Zonal Offices.  But, that entry isn’t required and it’s not clear what happens if it’s left blank.

The Author Information page is a bit repetitive if the owner and creator are the same person, but it’s not a lot of info to retype.  The Nationality question is fun simply because the dropdown menu actually lists nationalities and not countries.  For those whose nationality name is very different than their country’s name (i.e. Dutch or American), it requires some thinking.  Re-entering information a third time for a Correspondence person is a bit tiresome.  It’d be nice if there were a checkbox option “Author is Correspondence person.”

Submission of the work may be done as an upload, by mailing the work to the NCC or by doing an office drop-off.  The office drop-off option is kind of neat.  Maximum file size for uploads is 20MB and there’s special instructions if registering a video work.

Once the registration forms are complete, you have the option to download a pdf via the “Print Application” button.  This is also a pretty neat feature.

The fees are listed as N10 (US$30) in Nigeria (versus $45 in the US).  However, the Nigerian fees are per relationship to the work, so if you register as both Author and Copyright Owner, it’s a $60 fee.  There is a processing fee for paying online, but it’s minimal.  Payments are done through a third-party site, and you do need to create a separate account for it.  Little Leo couldn’t get past this point and actually pay for the registration because the third-party site kept giving a server error.

When an application fee is not paid, the application stays in the “Pending Applications” area.  Clicking on the question mark at the end of the application row will check to see if payment has been made.  If it has not, the application will go to the “Saved Applications” area and can be edited there.  However, Little Leo could not figure out how to get back to the payment options screen.  Going through the whole app again and clicking “Save and Next” until the very end resulted in going to the pending applications screen instead of the payment screen.  Same thing with clicking on “Pay & Submit” in the side bar and with clicking through the link in the email saying that payment failed.  After 30 minutes of trying to figure this out Little Leo gave up.  (Guess it’s time to call some friends in Nigeria.)

Supposedly, registration has a very quick turn-around time.  Registration with the NCC is estimated to take about 10 days, shorter for registrations with payments and deposits made online.  By contrast, a US registration is currently estimated to take about 3-5 months for online registrations and longer for paper filings.  However, if the NCC doesn’t get the payment system working soon, it won’t matter how quick the turn-around time is supposed to be or how fancy the online registration system is.

NCeRS looks like it’s going to be great, but there are definitely still some kinks to work out.

Hat Tip to 9jaLegal (Facebook, Twitter) for info on NCeRS being launched.

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