The Reproduction Rights Society of Nigeria (REPRONIG) congratulates the Federal Government on the recent deposit, on October 4, 2017, of instruments of ratification for four copyright treaties: (i) the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT); (ii) the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT); (iii) the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (Beijing Treaty); and (iv) the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (Marrakesh Treaty).

In a special way, on behalf of its members and the millions of authors and publishers that it represents, REPRONIG commends His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, the Federal Executive Council and the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, for their commitment to the use of intellectual property as a tool of national development. We also laud the Nigerian Copyright Commission and its Director General, Mr. Afam Ezekude, for initiating the Copyright Reform programme that was launched in 2012.

In today’s knowledge and information driven society, most countries are paying closer attention to their knowledge capital. Nigerians have shown immense talents in virtually all aspects of the creative industries. Nollywood has become a global brand, providing employment and contributing significantly to the country’s GDP. Yet, the protection, administration and enforcement of rights remain weak due to the absence of appropriate legal frameworks. Internet piracy and digital downloads continue to pose real threat to authors and publishers while the job of enforcement agencies has been made more arduous.

Unlike other copyright treaties that are essentially norm setting, the Marrakesh Treaty deserves special mention, as it is the first treaty in the field of intellectual property that is dedicated to exceptions and limitations. It addresses the peculiar challenges faced by the blind, the visually impaired and the print disabled who often have to wait for longer to gain access to books and other print materials. Even where they do, the cost of access is exorbitant and outside the reach of the average student.

As a reproduction rights organisation dedicated to promoting access and rewarding authorship, REPRONIG is confident that the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty will push back the book famine in Nigeria and ensure quality education for a large section of the society. It is our hope that Government will identify with the broader objectives of the Treaty and seize the opportunities offered under it to also address the infrastructure deficit in the education of the blind. Urgent attention should be paid to the training of special education teachers for the blind and visually impaired. Federal, State and Local Governments should invest in the provision of Braille embossing machines, recorders, text-to-speech applications, and other modern cost-effective facilities that provide solutions to reading disabilities. With an estimated 4.25 million adults above 40 years either blind or visually impaired, it is imperative that Nigeria addresses the needs of the blind and visually impaired to enable them realise their full potentials and live normal lives like every other citizen.

While we commend Government for ratifying the four treaties, we know that the real gains can only be realized if their provisions are promptly domesticated and effectively implemented. There is therefore an urgent need to conclude work on the on-going process of amending the Nigerian Copyright Act. Fortunately, the Draft Copyright Bill, which has received impressive reviews from national and international stakeholder groups and experts, adequately conforms to Nigeria’s obligations under these treaties.

Finally, REPRONIG hereby calls on the Federal Government to consult with the dialogue with the Nigeria Association of the Blind and other stakeholders with a view to redesigning and equipping a section of the National Library in Abuja, when completed, to stock print materials in accessible formats for the use of persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.



Executive Director

14 October, 2017

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