There appears to be more huddles for Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) if it must be registered by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) as directed by the National Assembly. In this interview with Emmanuel Thomas, Zonal Manager NCC, Lagos, Mr. Chris Nwocha emphasised that the ball is in the court of the National Assembly. He also reveals new tricks employed by pirates to deceive all involved in the fight against piracy. Excerpts.
You fight piracy, how do you identify a pirated compact disk?
We have what we call security devices regulation. In this regulation, we had what you call banderol. We moved to what you call hologram and this time around Source Identification Code (SID). It enables copyright inspectors as well as owners of these works and members of the public to know that yes these works are original and these ones are pirated. Source Identification Numbers are affixed at the point of production on works such as cinematograph and musical works. And when you go about, you can open it and say, yes, look at this SID code number, that will also help you to know the particular line that produced this work either in Oshodi or in Ajegunle, you will be able to trace it. But in the absence of that, some of these works also come from the Asian continent. And in a way we can also decipher when such works are imported into this country, for instance in container, such as you have seen, how can a container be containing various works belonging to various Nigerians and foreign authors? So by inference you will know that the container is carrying pirated works belonging to various right owners and with effective liaison with the right owners, the copyright inspectors will be able to know that these ones are pirated and these ones are not.
How are the right owners cooperating with the NCC?
The right owners to a reasonable extent have been cooperating with us. As right owners we have the mandate to educate them as to what their rights are and lead them to area of working out ways to assist them. I will give you example, the stakeholders in the music and sound recording industry for instance have been encouraged to liaise with approved CMO, that is COSON to be able to identify and do one thing or the other that will be of benefit to them, that is in that area of their right. Of course in the area of copyright litigation, some of them come to notify the copyright commission of the existence of their works and some of them, about 90 percent of them have confidence in the copyright commission such that whenever they have complain, they come to us. But I do not think that is enough, we need to come closer, cross fertilised ideas and find solution with a view to reducing the scourge of piracy in this country.
Who are the major culprits of piracy and what are you doing about it?
You may not see the main kingpins; you will see the manifestation of these kingpins on the street, where you find somebody selling pirated items in the shop and you ask him why he is selling pirated items, and he says ‘Oga I no know, I no get job now, so I need to do it’. And of course these kingpins have been working underground and by the grace of God we are doing all we can to fish them all out. The thing is that you cannot see the name of the importer correctly in all these containers that we seize. The company name is fake, the address is fake, the name is fake and they even try to deceive the customs by quoting a different name not contained in that container and you now find out that in a situation where you seize a container and you want to go and find out the importer, they tell you sorry, we don’t know this person. You look at the document; you can’t find trace of that person there. It is absolutely difficult for us but we are doing everything possible trying to identify them and of course pin them to a point.
The pirates seems to be working in connivance with government in originating countries because I wonder how that can happen, I am a bit confused?
Yes, it also disturbs us too. Why will people make fake projections of what they are not and of course what do you expect of intellectual property robbers in that case? Do you expect intellectual property robber to leak his true identity to you? Assuming you decide to sneak into his hold by tomorrow. So what they are doing is that they do everything to deceive everybody, both the custom, the copyright inspectors and the standard organisation, they try to beat everybody. But it is not a matter of connivance or conspiracy, but I tell you that the copyright commission in conjunction with the customs and the law enforcement agencies in Nigeria and abroad are doing everything to ensure that these people do not have their way anymore.
I have looked into the quantum of seizure that you have made, but people are saying that you are not doing enough?
I will tell you since the inception of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, the commission has been on top of this and I tell you that since the assumption of the incumbent director general, Barrister Afam Ezekude, I tell you that based on what we have between that time and this time, we have this quantum of seizure worth over N5 billion, last year(2012), January 26 precisely, we in the copyright Commission publicly destroyed quantum of seizure worth over N6.5 billion at a public place where stakeholders even witnessed the exercise. Furthermore, in the area of raids, conviction, aggressive enforcement at these piracy point, the copyright commission has not been leaving any stone unturned. Between 2011 and present, the commission has secured over 40 convictions, some of them were with both imprisonment and fine. Sometimes ago, a suspected pirate who was caught with a single pirated book was arraigned before the court and he got one year imprisonment without option of fine. The copyright commission by the grace of God is doing very well and of course it is not just doing it alone, the copyright commission is doing it with other stakeholders and they are aware and we want to do more.
It is true we may not have that 100 percent, we want to do more. Let me give you another example, about a month ago, the copyright commission in conjunction with DSTV went to raid two local broadcast piracy points of these broadcast piracy guys in Alaba, we carted this devices which you saw in my office and of course you know the cost of those things in the market? They cost of 3,750 per device. The devices recovered from those people are worth over N370 million. So the copyright is doing very well and we want to do more; to be able to do that we believe that the stakeholders must join hands with us to be able to get there.
Now what are the challenges so far?
You know that the copyright commission is not an arm carrying agency, that is number one challenge. You cannot go to this my brother here and say you want to arrest him and you know very well that he is a notorious pirates and you know very well that he is likely to have dangerous weapons around him, you as a copyright agent will not just go there alone, you need some assistance from other law enforcement agencies to be able to get there. When you see this person and you reasonably believe that he is engaged in piracy activity, and you want to act, your best bet is to move to the nearest police station and say please let us do this and of course that constraint may be there. They may have already booked or sent out their men for operation, so all you need to do is wait for your turn to be able to have their men for the assignment and in the course of doing that the man most have finished his job and moved away, this is another challenge. That does not mean that the police have not been doing anything, the police have been very helpful. Even the Inspector General of Police gave out a signal to all the police formations throughout the federation to assist the copyright commission in the area of security and they have been wonderful. The Nigerian Customs and every other law enforcement agency are doing well. It is true that some piracy points have been classified as notorious, yes in that case, we believe that Rome was not built in a day. We also believe that with concerted efforts, both on the side of the NCC and the stakeholders, even the government, we will be able to reduce the scourge of piracy at such notorious point.
Will you say that the NCC is winning the war against piracy?
The NCC is winning the fight. Forty (40) convictions were secured within a very short space of time? These large numbers of seizures were secured in Lagos alone, not to talk of other areas. So the copyright commission is winning the fight. Some of the stakeholders have been clapping hands and identifying with what the commission is doing.
What are you doing about local films that find their way into the market when they are yet to be released by the filmmaker? Are you looking at setting up a task force?
We are trying to go beyond that, so that anytime that the commission is in need of going out, we go out without delay. We are trying to put every necessary structure on ground, not just having such in place. Besides, when a pirate is arrested and you have reason to believe that the person is actually involved in piracy, you dust up the case file and arraign him before the court. So, doing that you don’t have these bureaucratic bottleneck involved. So we want to ensure that these things are put in place so that the copyright commission can do all these things with ease. I am sure all these will assist us to have more successes, it is also going to assist us to achieve if not total, reasonable reduction of this scourge they call piracy.
Is total eradication possible?
Why not! It is possible to have total or what we call zero tolerance for piracy in a given environment like this. What it means to me is that all hands must be on deck. If you as a complainant and of course right owner cooperates when somebody is arrested and your attention is needed, you will come, even when the suspect is being arraigned before the court. You don’t give us reason why you must not be there. You identify with the commission and do what you can by playing your own role while the commission plays its own role to achieve the total result required. And I am sure that it is really going to be huge when all hands are put on deck.
You have approved only one CMO, is there hope for a second one?
For you information, it is not one approved collective society, we have two approved collective management organisation in Nigeria presently. In the literary industry, we have Reproduction Rights Society of Nigeria (REPRONIG). REPRONIG is one of the approved CMO and COSON is another approved CMO in the music and Sound Recording Industry and in a very short space of time, the NCC will after due consultation give approval to a similar one in the film industry and the essence of that like I told you is getting every hand on deck to achieve the desired goal of zero tolerance in the fight against piracy in Nigeria.
Are we going to have another CMO ?
We are going to have a second CMO as soon as it is practicable.
In the area of music, it is a very clear thing. We have one collective society approved in accordance with the Copyright Act, which is also in line with International Copyright Convention. And if presently the NCC must approve another CMO for the music and sound recording industry then the issue of amendment of the Copyright Act should come on board but presently the copyright commission has only one approved CMO for the music industry and that is COSON and COSON has been doing very well. In 2011, it paid 25 million as royalties to musicians and last December 2012, it paid N100 million to various artistes, the highest person got N3.6 million and the least of them got N30,000, historic, very, very historic, the first in the history of Nigeria. I think we should be able to encourage other CMOs in other areas of works protectable by copyright in line with the Copyright Act and in line with the International Copyright Convention.