Reprography and copyright in Nigeria
Ajibola Maxwell Oyinloye
Ajibola Maxwell Oyinloye is the Collection Development Librarian of
Lagos State University Library, PMB 1087, Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria. +234
1 884043 (tel).
There is a shortage of the books needed in Nigeria
to establish and sustain literacy. Indigenous publishers cannot meet
the growing demand for books, and 80 per cent of books in tertiary institutions
are imported from overseas. Nigeria's economic downturn and the inflationary
pressure resulting from currency devaluation have made the situation
worse. The soaring cost of paper and printing means that a locally-produced
book is likely to cost the equivalent of a month's take-home pay for
Booksellers are finding it difficult to sell their
wares. In the universities, many students cannot afford to buy books.
They rely heavily on the libraries in their institutions, but the libraries'
stock of books and journals is inadequate and non-current. Lack of foreign
exchange for imported books and insufficient local production have resulted
in a shortage of essential reading materials in educational institutions.
The result is unbridled use of photocopying.
There is a growing culture of students and lecturers
relying on photocopies, with lecturers selling handouts as a substitute
for books. Thousands of pages of authors' works are photocopied daily
without being paid for. This unauthorised photocopying of intellectual
works is an infringement of copyright regulations - authors of books
and other literary materials should not be made to suffer from the impact
of modern technologies. Writing is slow, cerebral, strenuous and can
be risky. Authors deserve to reap the fruits of their labour.
A workshop in reprography held in Ibadan in 1995
observed 'that the emergence of new technologies poses a threat to the
economic rights of authors and publishers in Africa'. One of the recommendations
of the workshop was that 'appropriate levies should be imposed on equipment
and materials capable of being used for reprographic infringements and
that reproduction centres and mass users should be licensed'. This is
an appropriate position to take. Nigeria is a signatory to the Berne
Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works, and, as
a member of the UN, to the Universal Convention.
The Nigerian Copyright Council (NCC), established
in 1989, is the statutory body charged with the administration of all
copyright matters in Nigeria. The Nigerian Copyright Act of 1988, amended
in 1992, provides for the effective protection of copyright works. The
NCC runs seminars and workshops to educate not only the populace on
copyright but also the authors themselves. The launching of the national
anti-piracy campaign in 1991 was commendable, but the flagrant abuse
of copyright through unauthorised photocopying by students and lecturers
clearly shows that rights owners and academics do not demonstrate full
understanding of the law.
The NCC should find a way of enforcing copyright
on photocopies, and could borrow a leaf from Kopinor, the Norwegian
agency that licenses and collects rights from photocopy vendors in Norway.
But the issue of copyright cannot be decided by the NCC alone; a form
of co-operation and engagement with other bodies involved in the book
trade - publishers, booksellers, librarians, student bodies, university
administration etc - is absolutely necessary. Copyright should be introduced
into the country's educational curriculum. Government must endeavour
to develop local publishing and create an enabling environment for book
production. A book policy for the country should be put in place. This
may be the solution to the problem. [end] [BPN,
no 2627, 2000, p. 24.]
to table of contents for BPN Newsletter 26-27, 2000>>