By Kayode Ketefe
Today, April 26, 2015, (like April 26 of every year) is the World Intellectual Property Day, a day set apart annually to celebrate human creative endeavours as evinced in original innovations and ideas. Last Thursday, precisely, 23rd of April, was the World Book and Copyright Day, a day also set apart annually to celebrate literature, literacy and protection of intellectual rights.
The World Book and Copyright Day is organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to promote reading, publishing and copyright, while the Vision of World Intellectual Property Day, according to World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is to “raise awareness of how patents, copyright, trademarks and designs impact on daily life and to celebrate creativity, and the contribution made by creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe”.
Since the themes of these important Days are interrelated, I am going to treat their composite messages as the spring for my postulations here concerning their implication for Nigeria.
Being emanations of human creative ingenuity, intellectual property is the greatest assets in the world; it is trite that any nation that is serious about progress would entrench a rigorous regime for the protection of intellectual property of its citizenry. Nigerians are arguably among the nations with stupendous size of gifted people; the nation brims with talents in all age grades and in virtually all fields of human enterprises.
Unfortunately, our intellectual property law and enforcement regime is one of the most lax in the world with unscrupulous elements gaining ascendancy over merits and talents; these bad characters keep laughing their crooked way to the banks while the researchers, innovators, literary icons, artistes and other gifted souls are being scorched with fire of frustration.
Even in our ivory towers cases of plagiarism abound with purloined theses being re-adapted or simply rehashed to earn academic awards.
It is the government’s preponderant responsibility to ensure that the intellectual endeavours of her gifted population is not hampered through the greed of other lazybones but it seems our own government is lethargic. This apparent lackadaisical attitude of the officialdom to IP protection is appalling, considering the fact that our Nollywood is touted as one of the best three film industries in the world.
This writer is not unaware of the fact that there are a number of piracy cases being prosecuted in the Federal High Court by the Nigerian Copyright Commission while the commission is every now and then reported to have seized sizeable amounts of pirated materials from economic marauders, but the problem is far too big and complicated to be addressed by our extant efforts. For example there are about 60 cases being prosecuted by the NCC across the length and breadth of Nigeria, but pray, what are 60 cases compared to scale of piracy taking place in the country?
It is with utmost regrets that this writer recalls the tragedy that befell one of the greatest comedians that Africa has ever produced, Moses Olaiya Adejumo, aka Baba Sala, in the 1980s when his multimillion naira blockbuster film “Orun Mooru” was stolen and released into the market in one of the most callous act of piracy in Nigeria. Baba Sala, who had borrowed money from the bank in the hope of a profitable recoup when the film became a success, was almost plunged into insolvency. This was a man who had for many decades brought smiles to the faces of millions of Nigerians, yet our decadent system allowed the saboteurs to stamp anguish on his face.
Another sad case we may all remember is the callous piracy of Tunde Kelani’s highly innovative film, Arugba, which was criminally reproduced only a few days after release!
The unscrupulous scoundrels even went to the extent of uploading the film on the video-sharing website, YouTube, on the Internet before the owners of that facility, Google, were contacted and they promptly pulled it down.
The rate of piracy in the land is so pandemic that some musicians and filmmakers have even stopped releasing albums and films with regularity dictated by their star status, preferring instead live performances tinged with occasional waxing of records.
The police and other law enforcements agents have all the data on locales where gross violations of IP rights are carried on daily. Alaba Market in Lagos is the putative capital of the West African piracy market, while the Onitsha Market in Anambra State boasts of multimillion naira piracy industry, yet the marauders are allowed to operate with abandon. We only hear of occasional raids that are few and far between instead of purposeful, well-coordinated and sustained campaigns that would rout the pirates and put them out of business for good.
In conclusion, since ideas and inventions are the key driving force for national growth, for our nation to progress, we must strengthen our enforcement mechanisms of intellectual property law to ensure the originators and owners of brilliants ideas, inventions, art and discoveries reap their due rewards for their patience, hard work and talents.
Ketefe may be followed on twitter @Ketesco
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