In the electronic age, digital transfer of information through the Internet has simply become increasingly seamless. This exposes most copyright works particularly with entertainment value such as musical works, movies etc to frequent copyright violation. 


Upon the digitalisation of works, they are reduced to a series of zeros and ones. In this format, the network of computers forming the Internet can easily copy or duplicate copyright works without affecting the audio-visual quality of such works. In zero time, the digital works can be distributed to any location in the world. Each of these copies can in turn be easily downloaded by the receiver at a zero or near zero cost depending on certain factors. 

The recent and well celebrated Napster Case[1]brought to the limelight the dimension copyright infringement has taken on the Internet today. Napster operates servers that allow its users to locate and copy mp3-format digitalised music files for free.


In this case, record label owners brought an action against the company for contributory and vicarious infringement of copyright. The Napster system enables web surfers to make information stored on their hard drives available to other people in the Napster community. Napster users are able to swap sound recordings in the form of MP3 files, which are small compression format files that can be easily transmitted over the Internet. To facilitate this, Napster provides its user with fully-integrated technological infrastructure, including a hub of computer servers to which users connect. 

This is a continually-updated database of links to millions of media files; and software to facilitate the rapid and efficient identification, copying and distribution of those files. All of these services are at zero cost to the user. This system has been described as one of the numerous new, Internet-based services that form a new generation peer-to-peer computing, facilitating the sharing of books, music and videos etc that have turned the web into a giant free media exchange.[2]                                     

The United States district court for the North District of California on March 6th 2001 gave music-swapping Napster Inc 72 hours to block song titles that the recording industry identifies as copyrighted work. The court in an action brought by record labels and artistes said that the recording industry must provide Napster with notice of copyrighted sound recordings by listing tile, name of artiste, name of file available on Napster containing the work, and certification that the plaintiff owns the copyright. Once Napster receives “reasonable knowledge” from the recording labels, it has three business working days to prevent such files from being included in the Napster index, thereby preventing access to identified files. 

Particularly from a Nigerian perspective, there is no doubt that today Nigeria boasts of some of the most entertaining stars in the world. With the Nigerian film industry, popularly known as “Nollywood” being rated second biggest in the world after Indian’s Bollywood,[3]there is no gainsaying the fact that copyright infringement on the Internet poses a great threat to the survival and sustained growth of the industry. 

According to the Cable Network News (CNN), Nigeria has a US250 million movie industry, churning out about 200 videos for the home video market every month.[4]Of course, the music industry is easily the largest in Africa with quite a number of internationally celebrated Nigerian musicians such as Tuface, Asa, Banky W, Lagbaja, the late Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti, Dbanj and many others.

Against this background, Nigerian music and movies definitely needs adequate protection for her copyright works. According to Ajakpovi, “the Napster case would not be considered a hypothetical event by the discerning musical artiste in Nigeria; and not be considered fiction by the progressively minded…It is highly likely Nigerian music features in the chart of music transferred and downloaded freely on the Napster website.[5]

See you next week for another post on Intellectual Property!





[1] A & M Records Inc. v. Napster Inc 54 USPQ 2D (BNA) S.
[3] Placing Nigeria ahead of the United States in terms of number of annual film productions. The rise of affordable digital filming and editing technologies have no doubt stimulated Nigeria’s video film industry. See “The Best of African Film in 2004” CNN December 18, 2004 as cited in http;//www.wikepedia.org/wiki/Cinema_of_Nigeria accessed on July 38, 2011.
[4] “Nigeria Surpasses Hollywood as World’s second largest film producer – UN” United Nations May 5, 2009 as cited in http://www.wikepedia.org/wiki/Cinema_of_Nigeria accessed on July 38, 2011
[5] Ajakpovi M., “The Internet, Intellectual Property Rights and Legal Framework for e-Commerce in Nigeria” op cit 177                                                                                                                                                                         

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