Director-General Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. John Asein, has called on stakeholders in the book sector to work towards the formulation and adoption of a national book policy that will address emerging issues in the sector.
BY Ozolua Uhakheme.
He stated that the COVID-19 pandemic presented practitioners in the book industry with the opportunity to redesign their business models, stressing that it was imperative for all those concerned to go back to the drawing board and address the new realities of today in order to guarantee a better tomorrow.
He spoke at a copyright webinar organised by the commission as part of the virtual Nigerian International Book Fair, 2020 at the weekend with the theme: Information Technology as a Panacea for the Book Industry Sustainability Amidst the Covid-19 Pandemic.
He tasked authors, publishers, printers, booksellers, and others in the value chain to leverage emerging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools to sustain their relevance in the industry. According to him, the Commission has harmonised its regulatory and enforcement framework for a balanced, responsive and sustainable copyright ecosystem that would continue to meet the needs of the wider creative sector.
Asein disclosed that in partnership with accredited bodies, the Commission will soon roll out measures to monitor the production, importation, warehousing, distribution, and sale of books, lamenting the reckless abuse by pirates.
“The commission will also activate all provisions of the Copyright Act, including the obligation on publishers, printers, producers, and manufacturers of copyright work to keep a register of works. Our primary objective is to provide a more congenial business environment for copyright business, checkbook piracy, and promote effective management and enforcement of rights”, he added.
He indicated that the proposed measures followed discussions between NCC and stakeholders like the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), the Booksellers Association of Nigeria (BAN); and the Chartered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria (CIPPON), to develop appropriate technology-based solutions to some of the lingering problems in the industry. Noting that Nigeria ratified the Marrakesh Treaty in October 2017 to enable persons who were blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled have access to published works, the Director-General also urged publishers to deploy information technology to ensure that more books were made accessible to such persons.
“We urge relevant Government agencies at Federal and State levels to adopt a policy requiring all government-funded book production or procurement agreements to include an obligation that the books should also be made available in formats that blind and visually impaired persons can access”, he stated.
He assured that the Commission would partner with the Nigeria Association of the Blind to follow-up on its collaboration with the Accessible Book Consortium (ABC) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for the training of publishers and braille production centres to promote the production of school books in accessible formats.
He condemned the rising incidence of illicit book sharing on WhatsApp groups, rogue e-libraries, and fraudulent online bookstores, especially in the wake of the pandemic and e-learning solutions that it has forced on the education system. To this end, he assured the right owners that the Commission would continue to monitor the online space and respond speedily to reports of copyright abuses.
“In the meantime, the newly established Online Inspectors Unit in the Commission’s Enforcement Department will also be taking preemptive actions to disrupt online infringements”, he said.
Speaking on the Challenges of Copyright Enforcement in the Digital Environment, the Commission’s Director of Enforcement, Mr. Obi Ezeilo identified outdated laws, need to collaborate with different agencies responsible for aspects of online dealings, the difficulty in identifying true copyright owners, and the reluctance of online service providers to take down infringing works, as some of the problems militating against effective enforcement of copyright online.
In his closing remark at the 7-day fair, Chairman Nigeria Book Fair Trust (NBFT) Mr. Gbadega Adedapo said topics discussed at the conference of the Booksellers Association of Nigeria (BAN), x-rayed the needed stimulus in the booksellers’ supply chain for more effectiveness of the association, cost optimization and profit maximization for the online marketing activities of their members.
He noted that the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA) considered the synergy between ICT and Publishing for optimal results, enhancing marketing operations through the use of ICT tools not leaving out the importance of data analysis to improve business performance. “The editors discussed utilising opportunities engendered by the current pandemic. The NPA featured Okechukwu Ofili – Co-founder/CEO of Okada books who shared his experience on the impact of COVID-19 on ebooks. The Librarians deliberated on ICT approaches to Library Services so as to further engage users in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.