Pirates beware, copyright commission will STRAP you
PIRACY is termite destroying the works of creativity, intellectual investment, artistic talents and innovative gift of artistes. It has reduced Nigerian artistes almost to the unenviable status of the proverbial servile labouring monkeys that do all the work and reap nothing while pirates are the baboons that feed fat on where they did not sow.
But with the formal launch on Tuesday of the Nigerian Copyright Commission's anti piracy initiative tagged: Strategic Action Against Piracy (STRAP), the commission appears set to take on pirates head on.
The unprecedented turnout of top government functionaries and stakeholders in the movie, music, literary, and other creative industries, including publishers and marketers, at the event, is a testimony that the fight against piracy may have assumed a different dimension.
The occasion took place at the Lagos Sheraton Hotel and Towers Ikeja. The initiative launch demonstrated a deep-rooted resolve and commitment of the commission in collaboration with stakeholders, to battle with the robbers of creative and intellectual property of Nigerians. Perhaps, to stamp it out, if possible.
Therefore the NCC's STRAP initiative is designed particularly to strengthen copyright protection through more strategic and focused enlightenment, enforcement and enabling programme of actions are tailored to the needs of specific industries.
This is to open an ended programme within which the various aspects of anti piracy, including intelligence and surveillance, anti piracy interventions and raids, prosecution and post enforcement compliance programmes, will be carried out. The ultimate aim is to put in place a zero tolerance approach to the treatment of copyright abuses and infringements.
The STRAP programme enjoys the sympathy and support of the federal government, for which, President Olusegun Obasanjo, represented by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Chief Chukwuemeka Chikelu, said, "this initiative is especially timely at this period when the federal government is unwaveringly committed to entrenching stability in the polity, engendering transparency and accountability, institutionalising due process, enhancing service delivery, and guaranteeing internal security and the safety of life and property. Government has very clearly demonstrated its zero-tolerance for corruption in all its ramifications. This has had the effect of instituting probity in the management of the Nigerian state, pruning waste in the public service, and generally checking inefficiency, indiscipline, and mismanagement.
"Piracy, by all definitions, is a criminal act. It is particularly evil because it targets not only the economic fortunes of hardworking, creative individuals and organisations but it also has a debilitating effect on the creative energies of our musicians, writers, artistes, producers, publishers, and performers. In a system where intellectual property laws are perceived as being ineffective and are therefore flouted without fear of meaningful retribution, the frustration becomes even more oppressive."
The evils of piracy in reality, was dramatised at the occasion in a play written by Arnold Udoka and performed by the National Troupe of Nigeria. It captured, aptly, various criminal modes which pirates use to fleece away the sweat of artistes. Dancer, journalist and actor, Shaibu Husseini, who played the lead role in the drama sketch, elicited a lot of emotion that the large audience had no option than to empathise with the plight of intellectual property owners. The play was titled Counterforce.
The launch was chaired by the Chief Justice of the Federal High Court, Justice Roseline Ukeje, who said that "The Strategic Action Against Piracy (STRAP), is the Nigerian Copyright Commission's enforcement mechanism designed and targeted at checkmating, combating and, possibly, eradicating the unwholesome activities of intellectual property criminals, especially in the area of piracy, bootlegging and counterfeiting: I am particularly interested in this programme because its effective implementation cannot be achieved without the active participation of the Federal High Court, being the Court with exclusive first instance jurisdiction in Copyright matters, by virtue of section 251(1)(f) of the Constitution o the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999."
Minister of Culture and Tourism, Chief Frank Nchita Ogbuewu, philosophically said that, "STRAP is the philosophy underlying the protection of copyright. First is that a man should be rewarded for the sweat and intellectual exertion that goes into the creation of an intellectual work. Every creative work is a product of the mind. Accordingly, it is in some way also a manifestation of the author's personality. It is a product of economic value and often the author's own source of livelihood."
The objectives of STRAP, the commission disclosed, include: to combat all forms of piracy and copyright abuses; to create a conducive environment for the management and exploitation of the gains of the copyright system; to evolve a suitable copyright environment which will not only benefit local investors in the copyright based industries but also act as an incentive to foreign investors to explore the immense opportunities that Nigeria offers as the largest market on the continent. It aims to restore the image of Nigeria as a country that upholds the ideals of creativity and hard work, through mass enlightenment campaign.
"The sympathy is with the mass of Nigerians who, having worked tirelessly to produce copyrights works for the enrichment of society and its culture, are deprived of the just, deserved benefits of their toil. And with individual and corporate investors in the various industries who have been made bankrupt through the illicit activities of pirates and other purveyors of evil against intellectual property", Mr. Adebambo Adewopo, director general of the commission remarked.