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Copyright law for Nollywood, Nigeria

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By Mercy Kelani

Digital technology birthed Nollywood — most successful ent. Industry is Africa.

Recently, Nigeria’s 2004 copyright law got updated to enable effective functions in this digital era — where the entertainment industry has been effectively function for many decades. In the early 1990s, there was difficulty in getting telephone services, as a result the expenses of producing films was expensive for private agencies. As time went on, digital technology provided diverse ways for reception of information and entertainment. The emergence of digital technology made it easy for film makers to record through a video recorder and talented creatives.

Contemporary Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, was built through the introduction of digital technology. Nollywood has since then provided employment opportunities for over a million people, directly and indirectly; it is the second largest employment providing sector after the agricultural sector. Nollywood is the most successful film industry in Africa and the third largest across the globe after Hollywood and Bollywood; this is in terms of the numbers of annually produced movies. Its contribution to the country’s GDP in 2022 was 0.1%.

Copyright law and economic growth of creative industries are connected.

Despite the success of the regime, the Nigerian copyright law did not focus on development of the industry’s business and technology. The biggest challenge that confronted the industry was piracy — the ability to copy and sell creative works of other people without their permission. The court, with observation of new intellectual property problems, decided that there was a need for a new copyright regime. There is a strong link between copyright law and economic growth of creative industries like films, fashion, music and many more.

According to a research, there is an argument that a new copyright regime is required to make Nollywood more successful. The research suggested that there is an intentional inclusion of digital copyright regimes in its laws while strictly putting them into effect. This suggestion was fulfilled by the new copyright law. It provides the industry with a legal regime that ensures protection of creativity in the technological space. It will tackle online film piracy and revenue loss through illegitimate usage of copyrighted works.

Film piracy is a criminal offence and a civil wrong.

Adjustment of the copyright law is considered as a positive step towards enablement of rapid economic growth and a more diversified national economy. Creative works done through current digital productive technologies are recognized and protected by the country’s new copyright law. The law covers films, literary works, music performances and others supported by the internet and wireless devices through means of uploads, air-drops, streaming techniques and hyperlinks. Provision of anti-circumvention devices is also covered by the recent law.

The law now considers illegal circumvention of a software, computer program or a technical protection measure designed for protection of a copyrighted work as copyright infringement. Film piracy is officially not only a criminal offence but a civil wrong which is punishable with dire consequences. According to provisions of the law, Nollywood entrepreneurs also get protected from irrelevant law suits under the “safe harbour” provision. There is also provision of dispute resolution over rightful ownership of online contents without going to court.

Courts are expected to settle disputes of property rights.

Additionally, the Nigerian Copyright Commission is urged to implement its new administrative powers with caution and come to the knowledge that only courts are authorized to judge disputes concerning property rights. There is a comment that suggests the commission stops giving license to just one collective management in each category. In the musical works category, the license for collection of royalties for creators has recently been granted to only one copyright organization management, causing recurrent court cases for control over royalties.

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