By Tobi Soniyi
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), has granted the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) approval to impose levy on materials capable of being used for copyright infringement.
The approval is titled the Copyright (Levy of Materials) Order 2012.
A statement signed by the Assistant Director, Public Affairs of the NCC, Mr Vincent A. Oyefeso, said the approval, which permitted the implementation of a regime of levy on some materials capable of being used to infringe copyright, was granted in accordance with the provisions of Section 40 of the Copyright Act, Cap C28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The law empowers the Attorney-General of the Federation to make an order to be published in the Official Gazette of the Federal Republic of Nigeria regarding the payment of levy in respect of any material used or capable of being used to infringe copyright in a work.
The materials regulated by the levy imposed by the new Copyright Order include storage media like audio cassettes, mini discs, CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray, SD Memory Cards, video cassettes, USB flash drives, I-Pad and photocopying paper. Others are equipment and devices like photocopying machines, MP3 players, digital juke box, mobile phones, CD recorders, DVD recorders, Blu Ray recorders, computer external hard drives, analogue audio recorders, analogue video recorders, personal computers, printing plates, printers/printing machines, radio/television sets enabling recording, camcorders and decoders/signal receivers.
The AGF’s approval was conveyed to the Director-General of the NCC, Mr. Afam Ezekude, in a letter reference, NCRC/DSD/10/I dated November 15, 2012, which allows the commission to issue the Copyright (Levy of Materials) Order 2012 by publication of same in the Official Gazette.
According to the Director-General, the proceeds of the levy would be payable to a special fund to be created by the commission in line with Section 40(3) of the Copyright Act.
“The commission is expected to disburse the funds to beneficiaries who are essentially approved collective management organisations (CMOs) subject to retaining 10 per cent of the collected levy for administrative purposes of agencies that would be involved in the implementation of the scheme.
“The Order also permits the commission to retain 20 per cent of the fund for anti-piracy purposes; and 10 per cent for promotion of creativity.”
The Director-General noted that the compulsory levy provision was one of the pro-author provisions of the Nigerian Copyright Act, aimed at controlling acts of piracy and copyright abuses such as excessive photocopying and unauthorised reproduction of copyright works being carried out in circumstances that could not be subjected to voluntary licencing by right owners but which activities undermined the legitimate interests of copyright owners.
He observed that the lot of Nigerian copyright owners had been adversely affected, particularly with the advent of more advanced reproduction technologies which facilitated illicit copying either for commercial exploitation or for unauthorised private use, thereby denying copyright industries and the nation the benefit of maximising the revenue derivable from these sectors.
He said: “The new Copyright Levy Order is thus informed by the need to compensate right owners for the loss that they would obviously suffer from the illicit copying of their works, and to maintain an acceptable international standard of protection that would ensure the betterment of the lot of authors.
“In order to address concerns of legitimate users of materials which are subject to the levy, and other activities which may not undermine the interest of authors, the new Levy Order provides for the Minister (in this case, the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation) to exempt any class of materials from the payment of any levy.
“In addition to such exemption, the levy payable under the new order does not apply to materials manufactured in Nigeria for purposes of export.
“Similarly, institutions that represent persons with disability as may be approved by the minister are also exempted from payment of the levy.”
The Director-General who pointed out that the new copyright Order received inputs of relevant stakeholders in the copyright industries, called on copyright stakeholders and relevant agencies of government to partner with the commission to actualise the new levy Order.
He gave the assurance that as Nigeria was being repositioned to reap the gains of the new transformation agenda, through the proposed reform of the copyright system recently launched by the commission, the implementation of the order would strengthen the economic position of creators, encourage investment, generate revenue for government, discourage piracy and other abuses as well as provide incentive for more creativity.