Senior Nigerian Official On Copyright Infringements

05 March 2014

The head of regulatory department of Nigeria Copyright Commission Tuesday stated that a person doing of any of the reserved acts, without authorization of the right owner generally infringes copyright.

Michael O Akpan made this remark on Tuesday at the on-going Copyright training workshop for Copyright and Collective Management in The Gambia, organised by Ecowas Regional Copyright Observatory (RCO). He disclosed that infringements are of two types: direct, which is primary; and indirect known to be secondary. These two types, he said, may either constitute a civil wrong or an offence, which is a criminal offence. Akpan explained that direct infringement, occurs when the infringer performs any of the acts, which only the author/copyright owner can authorise.

He then cited reproduction, publishing, performance, distribution, among others, as typical examples.On indirect infringement, the head of the regulatory department of Nigeria Copyright Commission described indirect infringement as when infringer, although not actually performing any of the acts which only the author can authorize but knowingly does something to further the commission of any of those acts.

Example of this, he said, are "importing an infringing copy of work other than for private use, exhibiting or distributing for trade infringing copies making or being in possession of contrivances used for making infringing copies of works and permitting a place to be used for infringing performance".Akpan quickly dilated on criminal infringements, saying it involves making or causing to be made for sale, hire or for the purpose of trade or business for any infringing copy of a work or importing or causing to be imported an infringing copy of any work, having in possession any plate, master tape, machine, equipment or contrivance for the purpose of making any infringing copy of work.

"Selling or letting for hire or for the purposes of trade or business, or exposing or offering for sale, hire any infringing copy of any work, distributing for the purposes of trade or business any infringing copy of any work distributing for the purposes of trade or business any infringing copy of any work; or having in possession, other than for private or domestic use or any infringing copy of a work, are all criminal infringements," he informed the gathering.Given remedy for copyright infringement, Micheal Akpan discussed about civil actions, which involved the interlocutory reliefs-provisional measures and criminal prosecutions.

On the above, he said, the general damages are more easily obtainable as against actual/statutory damages in view of the difficulty of proving actual damages and the infringer's profit. But he noted that in some jurisdiction, statutory damages might only be claimed, if a work has been registered, citing US as example.

Expatiating on the interlocutory relief, among other things, Akpan disclosed that a right owner, may prior to filing a substantive suit file an ex parte order known as Anton Piller Application before a judge, directed at removing and preserving evidence of suspected infringements.

The head of regulatory department of Nigeria Copyright Commission furhter stated that the applicant must show a prima facie case which he intends to pursue against the respondent; and that the respondent has in his possession vital evidence in substantiation of applicant's case.

On remedy for criminal prosecution, he explained that a right owner could initiate criminal prosecution by way of complaint to the relevant law enforcement authorities, who may upon investigation charge the infringer to court. He made it clear that punishments for criminal infringement include imprisonment, fines, forfeiture and destruction of equipment used to produce infringing copies.

Akpan concluded by saying that the underlying purpose of copyright protection is to encourage those who may wish to create finance or exploit creative products to translate their intent to act.

For: Director General

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