Copyright Infringement by Nigeria varsity Students; the authors' enigma
John Ruskin, an art critic and a social thinker, once said “a book worth reading is a book worth buying”. However, this age-long quote seems to be taking a new turn as students have persistently jettisoned the tradition of buying books in place of reproducing authors books by the means of a photocopying the book. This reproduction, as harmless as it might disguise itself, is a punishable offence upon a competent court of law under an offence known as copyright infringement and a cankerworm that feeds on the expected income of the authors.
Copyright is an exclusive right granted to authors and owners (writers, artists, music composers, etc.) on their creations. Such creations are usually described as “works”. Copyright is granted in the form of a monopoly to authors (writers, artists, music composers, etc.) on their creations. Copyright Protection is provided for under the Copyrights Act, LFN 2004, and is administered by the Nigerian Copyright Commission.
Copyright contributes to human creativity by giving creators incentives including recognition and economic rewards. A creator is assured that his/her works can be disseminated without fear of unauthorized copying or piracy. This in turn helps increase access to the works and enhances the enjoyment of culture, technology, knowledge, and entertainment all over the world.
As some students claim, necessity prompted this innovation and the soaring cost of the book by lecturer authors is not an alluring reason in buying this book.
According to Oyesanya Olawale, a final year student of Business Administration Faculty of the university of lagos,
“Photocopying is cheaper. People engage in photocopying lecturers books due to financial reasons”.
He also added that the photocopying of lecturers-author books dampens the spirit of the lecturers in writing subsequent books since the business is not profitable.
He said “It discourages lecturers in writing more books and prevents them in further engaging in researches because they don’t get the required financial reward. And without beng motivated by the interest which is expected from publishing their intellectual work they would desist from making more academic breakthrough”.
Also, Emmanuel Udeh, a 300 level student of history and strategic studies department also agreed that the wholesome reproduction of a lecturer-author’s book could deal the lecturer a devastating blow to his financial and intellectual efforts.
He said ‘’It depends If the lecturer was actually the author. Then he will be affected him negatively in the sense that all his efforts to ensure the book sees the light of the day would amount to nothing’’.
Rotimi Akinola, a 300 level student of Mass Communication, identified the cost of the books in contrast to the content delivered as a major reason students don’t buy the book but instead opt for the photocopied version.
He explained “The first reason people photocopy textbooks is that the textbooks are too expensive compared to the quality of the content of the book. Some of these textbooks aren’t book of great wealth of knowledge to students,’’
He continued ‘’these textbooks ought to be the store house of knowledge and not recycled document that captures what has been said by various authors. Even if it is agreeable they(authors) don’t end up making their money, they should not make a textbook that would be universally versatile and not for the university environ
He concluded.’’ We need something new’’.
Mr. Wale Akinsinde, who plies his photocopying trade in Mass Communication Department, observed that, though it had become a growing trend, he seldom engaged in making such photocopies, while also noting that the bulk of his income came from the handout and materials he photocopies.
He said ‘’I rarely make photocopy lecturers textbooks. I am more comfortable making photocopies of materials and handout since I derive virtually all my income from,”
He however blamed the economic chaos in country as the fundamental problem as well as admonishing students to desist from the act.
He said “It is not good that the students are photocopying this book but the economic situation in the country is the basic cause of this controversy. This act kills people knowledge and the author would not make money from it. It is not ideal.”
Under Section 15 of the Copyright Act, copyright is infringed by any person who, without the licence or authorisation of the copyright owner distributes by way of trade, offers for sale, hire or otherwise or for any purpose prejudicial to the copyright owner any article in respect of which copyright is infringed.
When asked about this law, Mr Wale confessed he was oblivious of the act but was certain that photocopying someone else intellectual property is morally unacceptable.
Works covered by copyright include, but are not limited to, literary works such as novels, poems and plays; reference works such as encyclopedias and dictionaries; databases; software and computer programs; newspaper articles; films and TV programs; musical compositions; choreography; artistic works such as paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures; architectural drawings and plans; and advertisements, maps and technical drawings.
Copyright, it is often said, does not extend to ideas, but only to the expression of these ideas. For example, the idea of taking a picture of a sunset is not protected by copyright. Therefore, anyone may take such a picture. But a particular picture of a sunset taken by a photographer may be protected by copyright. In such a case, if someone else makes copies of the photograph, and starts selling them without the consent of the photographer, that person would be violating the photographer’s rights.
Copyright protection in Nigeria is obtained automatically without any need for registration or other formality. A work enjoys protection by copyright as soon as it is created provided that it is sufficiently original and is fixed in a definite medium for example, a book, cd, tape, etc
Speaking with Dr. Adepoju Tejumaiye, a lecturer in the department of Mass Communication and the author of Communication Research, decried the trend and was totally against idea.
He lamented ‘’For goodness sake why should they photocopy the textbooks since they can buy it? If you make photocopy of textbooks you are destroying scholarship. I agree to photocopying books you can’t find like the foreign books which is also wrong but books you can find shouldn’t be photocopied. Photocopying of these textbooks is a violation of the author’s right.’’
He pressed further ‘’People hide under the guise of fair use principle but this principle applies to students photocopying only a part or chapters of the book not the whole book’’.
A limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work is the principle of Fair use. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship. It provides for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test.
Dr. Tejumaiyed dismissed suggestions that students can’t purchase the book due to the economic instability in the country citing their colorful lifestyle as depicting otherwise.
He said ‘’why can’t they afford the books when they can afford to buy recharge cards and exotic phones and live flamboyant life;’’
He threatened that if he catches any student engaging in such act, he would ensure the student is rusticated “I would pursue the case to a reasonable conclusion if any student is caught photocopying my textbook’’, he assured.
Mr Lekan Otufodunrin, the on-line editor of The Nation newspaper and the author of A Purpose-Driven Journalism shared his fellow lecturer sentiment by discrediting the act.
He said ‘’It is a violation of the author copyright. It is only in Nigeria we engage in mass photocopying. Only chapters should be photocopied not the whole book. Buying these books would encourage lecturers to write books,’’
He implored lecturers not to coerce the students to buying their books if they couldn’t afford it as the same time urging students to seek permission before reproducing the lecturers’ intellectual property.
He said, ‘‘Lecturers should not force students to buy books also students should photocopy with permission’.
Furthermore, Mr.Taiwo, a lecturer in Mass Communication department in one of his Book Publishing class noted that few publishers invested in University textbooks because the sector lacks the mass market which accounts for the scarcity of University texts in Nigeria and the overreliance of photocopy of the few available copies left has not, in any way, helped the sector,
He advised the government to ‘‘give incentives to the publishers to make their investment profitable’’.
Copyright has a time limit: it usually lasts for the life of the author and 50 years after the death of the author. This rule, which is shared by the majority of countries, has been established by the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Once the term has expired, the work is in the “public domain”. Thereafter, everybody will be free to use the work, without obtaining a specific authorization from the copyright owner.
The Copyright Act 1988 sets out the law relating to the protection, transfer, remedies and penalties for infringement of copyright in Nigeria. The Copyright Act provides for the protection of the property rights of literary, musical and artistic works, cinematograph films, sound recordings and broadcasts.
The Nigerian Copyright Council is the statutory body charged with the administration of all copyright matters in Nigeria. The council runs seminars and workshops to educate the general public and authors on copyright. Its functions include regulating conditions for the conclusion of bilateral and multilateral agreements between Nigeria and other countries, and maintaining an effective database on authors and their works. The council also issues certificates of notification to copyright owners that notify it of their rights in the work.