NCC'S COPYRIGHT REGULATION 2006 SEEKS TO STRAP PIRATES OUT OF BUSINESS

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DR. Adebambo Adewopo, Director General of Nigerian Copyright Commission, NCC appears set on making many more enemies with his resolve to drive pirates and incidents of piracy in the Nigerian entertainment industry into oblivion.

At last Monday's public presentation of the 'Copyright (Optical Disc Plants) Regulation 2006, the DG described piracy as a cancer that has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation's intellectual component. "Intellectual production is an important component for nation building. The copyright crime exists as a stimulant to creative production and by extension, paves way for access to the worldwide resources of knowledge which is necessary for advancement in various sectors of the nation's life," said Adewopo.

The event packed the creame of Nigeria's feasible music and movie personalities. Oritz Wiliki, Chairman of Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria, (MCSN) described incidents of copyright infringement in Nigeria as unbecoming and must be fought with all vigour. "Are you kidding me? The reason I'm is to demonstrate the fact that this is an evil that must be fought with all our energies. It must be stamped out of the country. We cannot pretend that the cancer is not growing. It is taking business out of hardworking Nigerians," said Wiliki, who was also a performing artistes on the Polygram libel. Polygram and other big name multinational recording companies left Nigeria in the 1990's when they couldn't stand the combine effects of piracy and economic downturn of the country's Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) under military president, General Ibrahim Babangida.

Charly Boy, immediate past president of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, (PMAN) was also on hand at the Ladi Kwali (Banquet) Hall of the Abuja Sheraton Hotels & Towers, to lend support to the Optical Disc Plant launch. "Fighting piracy is everybody's business. You would have known my battles against the pirates during my tenure at PMAN, so it's no coincidence that I'm here. The pirates are killing everybody's creative endeavours in this country and have driven big businesses out of town, now it is time for us all to put our hands together and drive them out of town," said Charly Boy, son of former Supreme Court Justice, Chukwudifu Oputa at the occasion.

According to Adewopo, the "copyright (Optica Disc Plants) Regulation 2006 is one of the efforts of the Commission to check piracy especially from the point of production (and importation) of creative works." He stated that incidents of piracy of copyright works has increased following establishment of many domestic optical discs manufacturing and duplicating facilities which has increased over the past ten years.

"Ten years ago, Nigeria reportedly had only two optical discs plants. This increased to five within four years interval. As at today, there are about 14 such plants with varying production capacities in Lagos alone. This is not surprising as the position of Nigeria as the most populous black nation in Africa makes it an investment haven, and even more so in the area of arts and entertainment where Nigeria is hugely endowed," said Adewopo.

He believes the new Optical Discs Plant initiative is within the ambit of STRAP (Strategic Action Against Piracy, launched in May 2005 by President Obasanjo) aimed at keeping track of persons engaged in manufacturing, duplicating, importing and exporting of Optical Discs in the country.

"The aim is to entrench high standards of Copyright practise amongst such persons, detecting and tracing the sources of any pirated or unauthorised products and punishing infractions perpetrated in the course of such businesses."

Nigeria's Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mr. Bayo Ojo, SAN said the new law on copyrights was put into place in Nigeria to "create an environment where the business of optical discs production is carried out in a transparent manner. It is also expected that the provisions will be advantageous to each operator of a plant in terms of enabling them monitor the distribution of their products, and forestall attempts at counterfeiting by underground operators, if any."

The Attorney General stated that the new law "contains penal provisions in the nature of administrative measures like revocation of licence, suspension of licence, or refusal to renew a licence as well punitive measures like fines and imprisonment."

Jeremiah Gyang, one of Nigeria's new acts who entertained guests told Vanguard it was high time the government took the issue of copyrights infringement to higher scale, much like fighting fake drug marketers. "For us in this industry of entertainment, piracy is much more like fake drugs merchants. The government needs to fight them with the same vigour as NAFDAC is doing with those fake drugs importers. When a man has put in so much to produce what he perceives to be a good work, only for some other persons to reap bountifully from it thereby leaving the creative person in penury is the worst form of criminality," said Gyang.

In the words of Eddie Ugbomeh, OON, actor and film producer, "I no longer realease videos or DVDs into the Nigerian market. What I do now with my films is premiere them and take them to select film halls and after I've made my money, I simply retire them to the shelves. The last time I released VCDs to video rental outlets across the country, they never gave me any returns. In Port Harcourt, Rivers state, these rental operators even threaten to kill me if I come for my money. Same thing at Warri, Delta state. So I've made up my mind not to release VCDs in the present circumstances."

Vanguard