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My “Audio” message on the World Intellectual Property Day

I got a call from NTA Port Harcourt around 1pm today. The presenter had covered the presentation of “Leaps Towards the Sun”, a book authored by my daughter. The presenter sought my indulgence to feature in the 7pm news to talk about the copyright given the celebration of the World Intellectual Property Day, today 26th April. I obliged to the request and thus the raise to refresh my knowledge on the subject before 6.30pm I was expected to be in the Studio which was about 10 minutes drive from my house.

I am not an expert in the subject but decided to participate anyway given the awareness I had on the subject. So I quickly asked Mr. Google a couple of questions. I had an occasion to look up the detailed meaning of copyright during a particular writing I did in the past. Key words I knew about copyright (but needed refreshing) included; Bernes and GATT conventions (general agreement on trades and tariffs), fair use, “tangible form”.

With Google, things came back to memory fast. The Bernes and GATT agreements were world protocol that protected intellectual property holders across the different countries that subscribed to the agreement. Nigeria subscribed on 10th June, 1993. On definition of copyright, I found an author that described it as right granted to an owner of a work that gives the copyright holder the sole exclusive right to the work for his reproduction, publication or sale. I did not like his use of “right” to define “copyright” so I told my wife in the kitchen that I would rather refer to “copyright” as an “instrument” that granted…….I will then use the rest of the guys definition “fairly”. Fair use has to do with the use of a copyrighted material in such a way that it does not infringe on the owners rights. It has to be minimal extract of the work when compared to the whole and can also be for public good or scholarship purposes. Sometimes the boundaries can be blurred and may be determined by a court.

The work to be copyrighted also needs to be in a tangible form. And to this, I owe much gratitude to my great friend Chinedu Nzekwe, the director of the heat movie “Anchor Baby” with lead character Omoni Oboli. Chinedu was the first person that pointed out to me that the fact that we discussed an idea does not confer copyright to me. He highlighted the fact that the material has to be in a “tangible” form for the copyright ownership to be valid. And even at that there are other things to it.

As per the rules, works before 1924 are in the public domain. Works published between 1923 and 1977 have copyright period of 95 years. Works produced but not published between 1923 and 1977 have copyright periods of the author’s life plus 70 years. Works from 1978 onwards also have copyright periods of author’s life plus 70 years. For works between 1923 and 1963, one is required to check if the copyright has been renewed; if not, then the work is in the public domain and anyone can use it. Prior March 1989, to establish copyright one was required to quote that the work was copyrighted by writing copyright followed by a “c” in a circle, the year and the owners name. However, that is no longer the case after March 1989, but still advised so people will explicitly know and you have an upper hand in court, and those that want to extract copyright permission can also find you.

I looked up Nigeria’s copyright laws and saw the Act of 2004 and related references to the Copyright Act Chapter 68 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 and links to other amendment decrees of 1992 and 1999. The law was too long and I wasn’t going to read it anyway because I won’t understand it as I am not a lawyer. But the first section made reference to the works that could be copyrighted such as literary, artistic, musical, sound recording and broadcasts. I also checked out Nigeria Copyright Commission and found out they were established initially as Nigerian Copyright Council on 19th August 1989 which was later elevated to Nigerian Copyright Commission in April 1996, confirmed by a military decree in 1999 and it was a product of the Copyright Act. I also found out that Nigeria joined the Bernes convention in September 1993.

Finally, I reviewed the difference between plagiarism and copyright and found out that while Copyright had to do with law, plagiarism had to do with ethics even though they have many similarities; for example most plagiarism violations are actually copyright infringements. Plagiarism is when one passes off another person’s work as his own.

You would have thought that was all the preparationI made. I had to also make a quick check on a book I bought recently during its public presentation. The book is titled “Before you Speak, Read This” by Joyce Daniels. I had noted when I read the book that she mentioned some tips on such speaking events and so I decided to refresh my mind on her thoughts. The first thing that hit me was her advice to regret the invite if one felt unprepared. I asked myself that question, had a mental note to say upfront during the session that I was not an expert on the subject. I shelved that thought and decided I had enough ammunition to do justice to the topic.

Ah! I forgot to mention that I also Googled the World Intellectual Property Organization, the organizers of the event and noted they were established in 2000 and they chose 26th April because it was the day the convention establishing the organization took effect in 1970. And then I refreshed my awareness on my company’s guidance in participation in such events to be sure I was in the clear. I think I was on this one when Amarachi came and told me her mum said she sent me a Whatsapp message. Of course I was too busy and did not take a look. Even my sister that called from London was asked to call back later since I was in a rush. My village people nko? The call was also ignored and I sent a text that I was not available; all in a bid to prepare adequately. Even my in-laws understood with me as I had to stay in the library to do this three hours research. Behold when I came down to bid my in-laws goodbye, Amarachi’s mum asked whether I read the message? Which message? Ah, they called oh! They said they got directives from Abuja that they should only air programs related to COVID19! A sad me sighed and asked rhetorically, “so this is how I wasted some three hours of research?”. My wife and in-laws consoled me, noting that no knowledge is lost. To make sure the three hours was not really a loss, I realized I could at least still tell my story of what I had learnt in the past three hours hence this essay.

In closing, I guess you remember the guy that was asked in the exam to write about Jesus Christ but went and wrote about John the Baptist because that was what he crammed! He had declared he could not talk about Our Lord and Personal Saviour Jesus Christ; that he would rather talk about his disciple John. I will rather discuss the World Intellectual Property Day out here since I could not make it to the NTA studio. Who knows, it was a blessing in disguise and I am sure another opportunity will arise. And I am happy I have made you aware of the meaning of copyright. Thank me later! Ah, I didn’t even mention there is also “Copyleft”. I leave you to Google that one! And now, you know why the message was “Audio”.


Obidike Peter wrote from www.peterobidike.com and p_obidike@yahoo.com

Sunday 26th April, 2020.

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