More Than Just a Book

30 Dec 2012

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The book cover
John Asein, Director, National Copyright Institute, Nigerian Copyright Commission, trades questions on his new book, Nigerian Copyright Law & Practice with Nseobong Okon-Ekong. Excerpts:

W hat prompted you to write this book?    
Well, this is the second edition of the book. Essentially, it is to upgrade copyright knowledge. It is to begin to document copyright jurisprudence. It is to help the Bar and the Bench to have a one-stop material where they can get everything about copyright. And it is in some way to develop the copyright industry from the intellectual angle believing that the more materials of this nature we have, the better it would be for the academic community and those who may make comments and creative inputs into the copyright system.

You said this is the second edition. Does this mean that the first edition sold out?
The first edition was largely experimental and it sold out pleasantly to our surprise. We had limited print run so we didn’t have the largest market but it went very much outside this country and it helped people understand copyright law in Nigeria.

How long did it take you to gather materials for the book?
It wasn’t quite easy getting the materials. One, is because this is like the first time one is doing this size of work in this area. So you cannot really build on so much on Nigerian literature. Two, is that most of the cases on copyright are not always reported. Three, you also have cases in Nigeria that don’t seem to take the law to the limit or test the law so much. So the writer has to be more creative in putting together the bits and pieces and trying to come up with the Nigerian position on each of the issues being discussed. Still, in this book we were able to discuss about 50 Nigerian copyright cases which is a feat because there is nowhere you would find that number of cases in one book. One had to go out sometimes to the courts to get the raw judgments; other times one had to use his colleagues to gain access to the cases. Anyway, the first edition rolled out in 2003. I didn’t begin to do the second edition until about three years ago. The first edition took more than 10 years but in between that we had published a small version-Nigerian Copyright Act with Introduction and Notes. Interestingly, that I would say is the first text book on Copyright Law in Nigeria.  But that was an extract from what was to come out asNigerian Copyright Law & Practice.

So, all along you knew you were going to come up with a second edition?
I have a particular passion for revising works. I believe that a book should not stay more than five years on the shelf before you begin to revise it. This is because the materials would go stale and it would be unfair if people keep buying books that are outdated. So, I knew there was going to be a second edition because I felt I did not quite finish the work in the first edition. Also, the first edition had a huge volume of cases that was fully reported and from the feedback we got, we now thought we could do a full second edition based on the principles and leave out the cases which would now come out later as a case book to complement Nigerian Copyright Law & Practice.

What are your expectations on this book?
I am hoping that this would advance copyright knowledge. I would want to see copyright knowledge spread among more people. I would want to see more people getting enlightened and getting deep into copyright issues. I would want to see people come up with contrary views on some of the postulations, some of the principles we discussed and the opinions expressed in this particular volume. I would want to see more universities teach copyright because now they have a text book they can use. Beyond that I would want to see this book define Law publishing in Nigeria. Also, there are some departures in our Copyright Act and when counsel or when people depend on English text books they may read the law differently. A good instance is the provision of our law which gives ownership to the employee even when he is in employment and uses the employer’s materials. Under the English law, the employer owns the copyright. In fact, in many jurisdictions, the employer owns the copyright. But in Nigeria, it is the reverse. So, unless you have a point you can go to and see what the Nigerian position is, you can easily miss that kind of slant in our copyright law provisions.

Do you have the e-version of this book?
We have collaboration with African Book Collective which handles the print-on-demand and the e-book. It might be of interest to you to know that we are rolling out both this version and the version for the print-disabled. So we have an on-going collaboration with the blind community to have this book turned into Braille or turn it into a format that the blind can easily use. We also have a support platform, an e-platform to support the book. And when you buy the book, you also get the key with which you can go online- books&, to access additional materials that would help you in understanding the book. Besides, we created an online forum where the users of the book and those who have interest in Nigerian copyright can begin to interact. There is a provision for you to call the author and chat with him on any subject in the book. Now, the idea is to provide a book that is not just 2-dimensional but a book that is dynamic, interactive and has a life of its own. We often say that when you get it, you are not buying a book but you are actually keying into a knowledge base. As long as you have the book in your hands, you have access to updates, to the author and information on copyright that would keep you more enlightened.

What inspires you?
It is the need to break from tradition. I get worried when I see where the knowledge needle is now. It’s actually going down. And I think we can regain our place in the area of information dissemination and the younger ones need to have something in their hands they can use to climb on. 

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