Foundation’s pre-emptive approach to rights infringements gathers steam

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Increasingly, platforms of intellectual property domain are now more diffused with technology becoming more advanced. The need to capture areas often overlooked into rights campaign for the creators of original works to benefit maximally has become even more urgent. Friends of the Creator Foundation (FCF) launched last month to widen the scope of advocacy of intellectual property rights education has set sight on taking piracy awareness campaigns to secondary schools across Nigeria. This is in a bid to educate young people about rights to creative works that are often taken for granted and consequently infringed upon.

Founder of FCF and first entertainment lawyer, who trained at the University of Westminster, London, Mr. Rockson Igelige, spoke recently from his Oleh, Isoko, Delta State, base. He said the target now should be young people, who can still be moulded into reasonable compliance, adding that his foundation is one-stop centre that would “document copyright breaches, claims and litigations and conduct research into copyright issues.”

In October, the foundation intends to collaborate with Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), during its yearly anti-piracy week, to begin the business of taking copyright education to schools for the enlightenment of students.

According to Igelige, an intellectual property rights infringement by a daily newspaper (not The Guardian), where a student took photographs of another to the said paper for its photo-girl page without the consent of the original owner of the photograph is a case in point. The case is currently being heard in a Federal High Court in Lagos, although the newspaper is said to be seeking out of court settlement.

For Igelige and his foundation, there is need to ‘catch-them-young’ with better education on rights infringement so as to avoid costly mistakes, especially with the rising cases of lives shows being filmed by audience members and later broadcast in social media platforms without the prior consent of show promoters. Such illegal broadcasts, Igelige said, are liable to legal actions since the shows are for commercial purposes, with the right investments made.

“We are taking intellectual property copyright education to secondary schools in the six geo-political zones, to these young ones still growing up, and tell them that piracy is a crime; it will still be easier to prepare their minds than adults to stop indulging in piracy. Downloading of music and movies with smart phones without paying through the right channels is a crime. If these young people are involved in intellectual property, if they are approached in their younger days, the possibility that they would refrain would be there. So, this is a pre-emptive approach to intellectual property rights infringement.”

Igelige further said the foundation would approach all commissioners of education in the states on why issues relating to intellectual property should be highlighted in schools, with the emphasis that piracy is a crime. FCF, he noted, would even go farther and enlist state houses of assembly, particularly the National Assembly in Abuja, on strengthening copyright laws and updating them to embrace areas such laws had not covered such as fashion, digital media and new media.

“Currently, we are in talks with COSON to devote part of its week to a seminar on ‘agreement writing by artistes’, ‘intellectual property training,’ ‘rights of artistes’ as may arise and lecture COSON members on the latest trends relating to entertainment laws. FCF is a first-of-its-kind, non-governmental organisation, that has the interest of Nigeria’s vibrant creatives at heart. It’s on this strength that FCF is encouraging lawyers to train on intellectual property law, as one tree cannot make a forest. In fact, we will be mounting pressure on the National Assembly to enact favourable laws on intellectual property through lobbying and protests if need be.”

One sub-sect of the creative industry Igelige is passionate about but which he says is left out of the intellectual property rights’ loop at the moment is fashion. A multi-billion naira industry, Igelige said the sector is too vital to be left without requisite laws to regulate its practice, saying it’s a grave disservice to its operators. Rights infringements associated with fashion, Igelige said, include copyright, trade mark, passing off and knock off, noting that these infringements are just as grievous as piracy in music and movies.

“We must begin to prepare for fashion breaches,” he noted. “If fashion is developing, we must put in place laws to guide its practice, as it falls under entertainment law. The present body of laws is not sufficient to take care of cases that can emanate from the fashion industry. The same thing with choreographers, director’s notebook; standup comedians are not protected so long the jokes are not written down.

“Having trained at Westminster University in British entertainment laws, what I did when I came back in 2013 was to do a comparative analysis of British and Nigerian laws. In fact my Masters’ thesis was ‘A Comparative Study of British and Nigerian Laws Against Film Piracy: Successes and Challenges.’ My major case, with Dr. Ogaga Ifowodo, was with Dovie Oksomena (also known as Baba 2010) against MTN and we’re proceeding to hold the telecom company for contempt for failing to make Baba 2010 a brand ambassador as contained in the terms of agreement. The case was settled out of court. That case raised the negotiating power against a multi-national; the artiste was highly compensated. It turned to be one of the highest paid piracy cases in Nigeria. We have settled part of it; we’re still pursuing the second part.

“Now, we have two other cases against MTN coming up, as it has infringed on the rights of Liberty Williams, also known as Pupayannis (Delta), and Benson Udoh (Akwa Ibom). What is common among these fellows, whose rights have been infringed upon, including the Polytechnic student, Temitope Adeyemi, whose photograph was illegally used in a newspaper, is that they are all indigent artistes, who have no money to fight their cases. We stepped in as bridge to right the wrong done them.”

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