Decree No. 61 of 1970 was the first indigenous legal instrument regulating issues relating to copyright in Nigeria. This Decree was promulgated just after the Nigerian civil war ended but salient provisions in the law did not foresee the rapid socio-economic development, as well as influx of products of advanced technology into the country, which made illegal reproduction of works protected by copyright much easier. The consequence of the inadequacy of.
Decree 61 to protecting creativity and scholarship was high scale piracy that robbed creators, organisations and individuals who helped produce or disseminate creative works as well as the society, of potential income
As a result of increased pressure from artistes, authors and creators who are originally the copyright owners, the then Federal Military Government promulgated into law, the Copyright Decree No. 47 of 1988, which now exists as Copyright Act Cap C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. The Act which has been aptly described as one of the best of its kind, not only created most favourable conditions for actualisation of authors' potentials through comprehensive protection of creative works, but also incorporated establishment for the first time, of a machinery for the administration of copyright and neighbouring rights matters in Nigeria, i.e. Nigerian Copyright Commission.
In 1988, the then President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, General Ibrahim Babangida, GCFR, approved the establishment of the Nigerian Copyright Council which was inaugurated in August 1989 with a Governing Board. It had the sole mandate for the administration, protection and enforcement of all matters on copyright in Nigeria. Owing to the need to align the Council with the emerging trend in global copyright administration and enforcement, its status was changed to a Commission in 1996. Subsequently, the Nigerian Copyright Act was amended twice by the Copyright (Amendment) Decree (No. 98) of 1992 and Copyright (Amendment) Decree (No. 42) of 1999.
The justification for the establishment and later upgrading of the status of the Commission, as well as the amendments of the Copyright Act, was to adequately carter for the rising national and international responsibilities within the copyright industry and emerging challenges in the sphere of copyright globally.
Before the 1992 Amendment of the Copyright Act (Decree No. 47 of 1998), the Nigerian Copyright Council as it then was, functioned largely as an administrative agency for copyright matters in Nigeria. It had no statutory powers of enforcement or of apprehending offenders of the provisions of the Act. Most activities of the then Council were centered on public enlightenment workshops, seminars, conferences, etc. as a way of creating the necessary awareness on the new Act and its implications for the copyright community in the country. The Commission, in that scenario, lacked the teeth to bite and this mitigated the barrage of criticisms by right holders who felt that what was needed was a more potent law to deal with the problems of piracy and other copyright violations. It was the ensuing agitation by authors and other interest groups in the industry that led to the amendment of the principal Act in 1992.
One unique outcome of the 1992 Amendment of the Act was the provision in Section 32A (now Section 38 of Cap C28 Laws Federation of Nigeria, 2004) of the said Act for the appointment of Copyright Inspectors with specific powers to enforce the law. By virtue of the said section of the Act, a Copyright Inspector is vested with powers of enforcement of the Copyright Act, similar to the powers of the Police under the Police Act. Thus, the initial statutory mandate of the Commission as an administrative agency was extended to cover enforcement and regulatory functions. This threw up challenges of the structural status of the agency. The first structure was the constitution and establishment of the then National Anti-Piracy Committee made up of representatives of authors' associations and other interest groups with the mandate to reduce the scourge of piracy in the country. Similar structures were put in place at the state levels through the assistance of the Councils for Arts and Culture in the states.
Retrospectively, copyright, under the 1970 Act, was supervised by the Ministry of Trade alongside trademarks, patents and designs, which was not administered by any government agency. At inauguration, however, the Commission became a parastatal of the then Federal Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
In implementation of the Federal Government White Paper of Year 2000 on Harmonisation of Government Agencies and Parastatals, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at a Federal Executive Council meeting in February 2006, ordered the transfer of the responsibility for the supervision of Nigerian Copyright Commission from the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism to the Federal Ministry of Justice. The objective of the transfer was to properly align the mandate of the Commission with the overall administration of justice in Nigeria as well as ensure conformity with international best practices in the copyright system. For administrative, enforcement and regulatory purposes, the Commission has its Headquarters in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, with nine (9) Zonal Offices and five (5) Liaison Offices spread across the six (6) geopolitical regions of Nigeria.