The new copyright law in Nigeria is filling important gaps in today’s digital content age and will be useful to combat online piracy and loss of revenue especially in Nollywood, an intellectual property law expert, Prof. Samuel Samiai Andrews, says.
Nollywood employs more than a million people directly or indirectly, making the sector Nigeria’s second largest employer after agriculture. In 2022, Nollywood’s contribution to Nigeria’s GDP stood at 0.1%.
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It is Africa’s most successful film industry and the third largest globally after Hollywood and Bollywood in terms of the number of movies produced annually.
In a new paper for The Conversation, Andrews, a U.S Ambassador’s Distinguished Scholar and Professor of Intellectual Property Law, lauded the new copyright law and praised its coverage of contemporary piracy issues faced by creators in the Nigerian entertainment space.
According to him, the new law has the potential to create stability and predictability in industries like Nollywood. This is a positive step towards a more diversified national economy – and economic growth.
Arabella Star Magazine reports that on March 17, president Muhammadu Buhari, signed the Copyright Bill, 2022. This Act, known as the Copyright Act of 2023, repeals the Copyright Act of 2004.
Among other key issues, the new law recognises and protects creative works that are based on current digital productive technologies. It covers films, music, performances, literary works and performances enabled by the internet and wireless devices through streaming techniques, uploads, hyperlinks and air-drops.
The new copyright law includes a “safe harbour” provision which protects Nollywood entrepreneurs from unnecessary legal suits.
As Andrews explained in the paper, “for example, online service provider business is an emerging technology that requires huge investment and is vulnerable to illegal actions.
“People upload unauthorised content on an online platform and this can result in lawsuits which affect investors in this sector. The safe harbour comes with responsibility on the part of the online service provider: it must quickly remove unauthorised content and must not benefit financially from it,” Andrews stated.
He said the new law also gives copyright owners ways to resolve disputes over ownership of online content without necessarily going to court.
Speaking further about execution, Andrews noted that it will be important to allow the courts to do their job.
He explained that trying to settle disputes through the Nigerian Copyright Commission – which is a new option – could complicate and prolong the litigation.
Andrews said this might discourage investment in the creative industry.