You will agree with me that in this generation of social networks which include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube etc, where millions of music, videos and other works are subjected to copyright infringements by users on a global scale, there is need to balance technology, access to information and copyright protection of digital works. The evolution of eBooks and increasing use of smart phones, ipads and other gadgets is also a related development that has implications for copyright infringements, not only in more advanced countries, but also in Nigeria.

Without mincing words, the extant Nigeria Copyright Act does not have any adequate provision for the protection of works in the current electronic age. The categorisation of computer programmes as a literary work may appear to have been convenient so far in Nigeria, given our level of development in intellectual property. However, with the rapid advancements in technology on a daily basis, it is only a matter of time when the centre would no longer be able to hold and things would soon begin to fall apart, if things have not began to fall apart already.

Content providers of Internet materials/works need to have a secured and reliable means for delivering information and services to the consumers. In other words, content providers must be confident that the systems developed to distribute these works would be secured against infringements. If such could not be achieved by these producers, the realisation of their commercial gains would be affected. They will therefore not be motivated to use the Internet medium as a means of information dissemination and advancement of knowledge.

It is also incumbent upon the Internet Services Providers (ISP) to ensure security of the works of these content providers. Technology will play a central role in implementing control on the access to and use of protected works at both the file and server levels. Distribution of digital works can be regulated by controlling access to the source of copies of the works – information or data servers. Access controls is affected through user identification and authentication procedures that may deny access to unauthrorised users to a server or particular information on a server. Other techniques for protecting works in this electronic medium include encryption, digital signature and steganography.          

At this point, a proper synergy between harmonisation of copyright laws and the use of technological methods will provide the much needed protection to the works uploaded unto the Internet. This will give adequate confidence in publication through this medium thereby ensuring maximum security of the works and incentive to the content providers since the Internet provides them with a global reach.

It has been said that intellectual creations can make economic sense only when we wake the innovator in an entrepreneur and also the entrepreneur in an innovator.[1]It is clear that while an intellectual property right regime can bring out the potential for innovation, creativity and growth in a national economy, it is not by any means a cure. Not only are adequate legal infrastructure and progressive policies on protection of intellectual property required, but also positive and widespread public conviction, awareness and support are necessary.

With the renewed zeal to enhance administration and enforcement of intellectual property in Nigeria, it is hoped that the level of intellectual property violation will drastically reduce hence making Nigeria more conducive for foreign investments.[2]However, the enforcement of intellectual property right cannot be left for the government alone. The right owners, Nigerian populace and the international community have to lend hands of partnership and total support. With combined effort, an effective intellectual property regime can be sustained so that the economic and cultural value of intellectual property can bring about national development and transformation.

Finally, the judiciary has the most decisive role to play in the enforcement of law relating to copyright. This is so because while the police and the copyright inspectors may do their work as it ought to be done, the objective of the law cannot be achieved unless the courts carry out the duties imposed on them under the Act meticulously. Thus, the courts have a crucial responsibility in ensuring that the fundamental objectives of the Act are not frustrated. According to Esho JSC (as he then was):

It is the function of Judges to keep law alive, in motion and make it progressive for the purpose of arriving at the end of justice, without being inhibited by technicalities, to find every conceivable way of avoiding narrowness that would spell injustice…[3]
The Nigerian legislature must be proactive by amending the Act to safely provide for the protection of electronically published works particularly on the Internet.

[1] Kami Idris, op. cit. at 56
[2] It is important to note that the great effort to combat piracy by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) has not gone unnoticed in recent times. In May 2007, the United States Government announced the removal of Nigeria from the Special 301 list for the year in recognition of the considerable efforts in terms of addressing intellectual property piracy and counterfeiting in the country.
[3] Bridge Co. Ltd v. Survey International Ltd (1986) 4 NWLR (pt. 37) 576 at 596

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Nigerian Law Today

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