REPRONIG Takes Copyright Licensing Campaign To Tertiary Institutions

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By Blessing Bature, Abuja

The level of photocopying and downloads going on in Nigerian tertiary institutions is significantly high. There is need therefore for a system through which authors and publishers would be adequately compensated for their works. This was the position of the National Working Group of Reproduction Rights Societies of Nigeria (REPRONIG), as they rose from a two-day meeting on the copyright licensing in tertiary institutions.

Incorporated in the year 2000, REPRONIG is an umbrella body of various copyright owners’ associations, including Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Academic and Non-fiction Authors Association of Nigeria (ANFAAN) and National Association of Translators and Interpreters (NATI). Others are Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA) and Photographers Association of Nigeria (PAN).

Representatives of these bodies had met in Abuja to strategize on the implementation of licensing for copyright reproduction in Nigerian higher institutions.

In fact, the major focus of the two-day meeting of the NWG was to develop a framework for collective management and licensing of rights in tertiary institutions for the benefit of authors and publishers.

The group, which was chaired by the immediate past Vice Chancellor, Landmark University, Professor Aize Obayan, was also charged with the responsibility of examining and defining roles of the various stakeholders in the efficient implementation of the licensing for copyright reproduction. It was also expected to recommend appropriate strategies for ensuring that authors and tertiary institutions maximize the benefits derivable from the system of collective management of rights, and consider the terms of a draft licensing framework.

The NWG was organized in collaboration with the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU) and with support from the Nigerian Copyright Commission.

Meanwhile, participants at the meeting were drawn from the National Universities Commission (NUC); National Board for Technical Education (NBTE); National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE); Nigerian Law School and the heads of tertiary institutions. Also at the meeting were representatives of various associations under REPRONIG.

The lead facilitator was the former Chief Executive Officers, Australian Copyright Agency and Vice President, International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations (IFRRO), Mr. Jim Alexander.

Inaugurating the National Working Group last week, Director General, Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr. Afam Ezekude, stated that the occasion has provided an opportunity for sharing of information on the importance development in copyright administration as well re-emphasized the relevance of copyright system to national development.

Admitting that the distribution of copyright content has assumed worrisome dimension in the country, the DG called for a strong synergy between right owners, investors in creative works, tertiary institutions as well as commercial enterprises.  “It is against this background that we commend the present initiative of REPRONIG in adopting the dialogue and enlightenment approach as a prelude to its licensing drive “It is our expectation that this will provide a platform for more intense engagement towards finding an effective solution to the issue of appropriate remuneration for reprographic activities of organized institutions and the private sector”, the DG said.

At the Nigerian Copyright Commission, the DG said, efforts are on-going to reform the framework of the copyright protection to proactively respond to the challenges of the digital environment. Earlier, the Chairman, REPRONIG and President, Nigerian Academy of Letters, Professor Olu Obafemi, stated that the meeting was in recognition of the important role participants had to play in rescuing the tertiary book industry in Nigeria.

Noting that Nigerian authors were some of the most brilliant and celebrated in the world in various disciplines, including fiction and non-fiction, he however decried the pitiable fortunes of authors and publishers.

According to him, the inauguration of NWG was a demonstration of the Society’s new policy of inclusiveness and consultations towards addressing the collective management of rights in the literary field, as a first step in finding enduring solutions to some of the challenges that threatened its sustainability. “Studies have confirmed the huge volume of photocopying and reckless abuse of copyright that goes on in our tertiary institutions. One would have thought that the heads of these institutions, themselves being authors, would be more concerned. “Unfortunately, the experience of the REPRONIG in the last two decades of its operation has been one of total neglect and even disdain from the institutions. “With the exception of Covenant University, no other university in Nigeria has ever deemed it fit to obtain a reproduction license.”

Adding: “By taking a blanket license, a tertiary institution will not only be avoiding the legal repercussion of the activities of its staff and students, it will also be showing the need to respect copyright, promote and encourage creativity”, the Prof stated.

The chairman noted that members of the Working Group were carefully chosen to represent all major stakeholder groups, including the agencies responsible for the setting of standards for tertiary institutions. “If Nigerian institutions are to be globally competitive, it is imperative that that we begin to insist on global best practices. Together we speak the same language and that is to ensure adequate recompense for the authors and publishers.”

While commending the Federal Executive Council for recently approving the ratification of four copyright treaties, Professor Obafemi tasked government on early deposit of the instrument of ratification. “And to translate this to concrete gains for Nigeria, we also appeal to government to hasten the transmission of the draft Copyright Bill to the National Assembly for early passage”, he said.

Ahead of the meeting, Professor Obafemi had visited NUC with his team, where he sought the collaboration of the Commission in managing the rights of authors and publishers particularly at the tertiary level. “REPRONIG is willing to collaborate with NUC in addressing issues of piracy, plagiarism, photocopying, digital downloads and other abuses of copyright in Universities “It therefore requests the NUC to include the availability of proper licensing and rights management policy as part of the requirements for the accreditation of universities.”

He stated that “while REPRONIG welcomes the increasing use of electronic libraries in universities, it insists on adequate standards to protect the interest of authors, publishers and guarantee the sustainable growth of the local book industry.”

Several papers were presented at the meeting. The Executive Secretary, REPRONIG, Barrister John Essien, took the meeting on how to reposition REPRONIG for actualization of its goals.

He also highlighted the association’s mandate, objectives, its activities as well as challenges, and expressed the need for universities to have licenses to reproduce.

According to him, an institution can have only one license to enable the students and lecturers reproduce as stipulated by the body.

According to Essien, lack of litigation was not as a result of ignorance of the activities of copyright violators. Rather, right owners appeared overwhelmed by the level of impunity at which literally works were reproduced. “The vision of REPRONIG was to have efficient management system for literary works. The mission is to ensure fair recompense for authors and publishers. If these do not happen, we have not started”, Essien said.

An international consultant – former Vice President and Treasurer, IFRRO and former CEO Copyright Agency of Australia, Mr. Jim Alexander, spoke on the global perspectives of operations and benefits of right reproduction organizations, the tariffs, licensing and distribution of royalties as well as development of framework and strategy for licensing.

At the end of their deliberations, the NWG observed the need for affordable, convenient, timely and flexible access to materials in Nigerian Tertiary Institutions. Aware that it was practically impossible for authors to know all the places, where their works are used or negotiate payment terms, they expressed the need for collective administration of rights.

The meeting also observed that the global average contribution of publishing to a nation’s GDP is 5.49 per cent, translating to $22.2billion out of Nigeria’s 2016 GDP of $405.1billion.

Describing the current system of data collection and management on the secondary use of copyright works in the tertiary institutions as inadequate, it expressed the need for creating a need for effective framework for data collection.

Considering its observations, Working Group developed a framework for the introduction and management of copyright licensing agreements in tertiary institutions. According to it, license agreements should be made with the tertiary institutions, subject to review every three years; the agreements should include a clause specifying that parties are free to agree on rolling over of agreements or review based on the results of monitoring usage, while the tariff payable under the agreements should be based on the number of students per institution.

It also recommended that the permissible limit of reproduction under the license should be restricted to not more than 20 per cent of the material.

Meanwhile, the scope of the license agreement should include both hard copy and digital materials, while license agreement should provide for flexibility on allowable alternative formats for visually impaired and print disabled users.