Pirates, pack and go! Copyright commission sign new song

  • Sunday, January 22, 2006 - By Justin Akpovi-Esade
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SPURRED by late last year's anti piracy raid that led to the busting of suspected pirates at the Oba Elegushi International Market, in Lekki area of Lagos, the Nigerian Copyright Commission, has concluded plans to further take the fight to the home of pirates.

Mrs. Loretta Njoku, acting director general of the commission in an interview in Lagos recently said the government body is poised to give pirates "hell this year", adding that the new slogan in the commission is "Pirates, Pack and Go" (PPG). Her words: "There is no negotiation in this regard, it is either the person stops feasting on the works of artistes without paying for it, or we at the commission send him out of business."

Known for her rigid stance in piracy matters, Njoku said this year would be a year to remember in the country in the area of anti piracy raids. "We have drawn our battle plan and since there is a STRAP (Strategic Action Against Piracy) initiative on ground at present, we are going to use that as a pivot to fight this battle. However, as I said earlier on, it is Pirates, Pack and Go."

The Asaba, Delta State launch of STRAP, Njoku said, would be held this month. "The Delta State is ready, the commission is ready, but the public will be informed in the shortest possible time about the date. The fight against piracy is not a Lagos affair that was why last year we got the government of Delta State involved. In due time, STRAP (an initiative introduced by Mr. Adewopo Adebambo, director general of the commission who is currently on suspension) would be launched in all the states of the federation."

The copyright boss said that the "commission is not relenting in its resolve to rid this country of open and barefaced piracy. We have given enough time to enable those that are repentant to legitimise their activities and it can no longer be business as usual.

"Our experience in the field confirms- and many of you are witnesses to this-the ease with which piracy is now being carried out in a scale never before heard of. We have also seen the activities of pirates are no longer limited to rickety structure in dark alleys. The pirates have become more sophisticated and their locations more prestigious. They find allies among all manners of people in the society and their public profile may not always fit that of a common criminal. But we are not fooled and Copyright Inspectors of the commission are prepared to fish them out from whatever height or location they may be operating from," Njoku submitted.

Njoku continued: "The commission has striven to ensure the effective functioning of its administrative and enforcement machinery. This is to give right owners all necessary facilities for the legitimate and effective commercialisation of their works and empower them to reap from their intellectual outputs. Parts of this effort resulted in the amendments to the law which gave the commission its enforcement mandate. It is in discharge of this sacred mandate that the commission embarked on its policy of zero-tolerance for piracy in every aspect of copyright in Nigeria. The policy has remained the cornerstone of our enforcement activities.

"As you are all aware, the strategic action against piracy (STRAP) was launched last year by President Olusegun Obasanjo as a demonstration of this administration's commitment to the eradication of all manner of criminal activities and the restoration of Nigeria's pride as a nation of law abiding citizens. Using the platform, the commission has been working on various support programmes to bring about a more strategic, better focused enlightenment and enforcement actions, the realisation of the current economic reform programmes of the Federal Government with a view to empowering all sectors of the economy and boosting foreign investment in Nigeria."

She revealed that the commission has, in more recent times embarked on major anti-piracy operations in different parts of the country. This is in addition to the routine interventions to check all manners of copyright abuses. One of such operations, she said, "is the one that took place at Alaba international market in Lagos. Intelligence reports over the years have always pointed to the market as one of the major points for the importation, illegal reproduction, stocking and sale of pirated music and films. This was attested to by the outcome of the operation. For instance, pirated optical discs with a street value of more than one hundred and fifty million Naira (N150m) were confiscated in that operation.

"Following closely on this was the operation at Sang-Tedo on the Ajah-Expressway, Lagos. Optical discs, mostly DVDs and CDs seized in that operation had a street value estimated at Five Hundred Million Naira (N500m). That operation also confirmed our suspicion that the pirates were beginning to flee the more notorious locations in their bid to conceal their activities and avoid the increasing vigilance and pressure from the commission. Copyright Operatives, with the assistance of the Nigeria police, Nigeria customs service and other security agencies, have carried out street raids and mop-up operations, many of which did not receive high media coverage. And the seizures from such operations are worth more than Four Hundred Million (N400m). We have been working very closely with the Nigeria publishers Association as well as leading publishing firms in the country to bring sanity in the book industry. To this end, our various offices, zonal offices in the last couple of months have carried out massive anti-piracy raids and pirated literacy works estimated at more than Six Hundred Million Naira (N600m) have been seized. Similar success has been recorded in the war against pirated computer software and series of operations have been executed at the Otigba Computer Village, Ikeja, Lagos where many violators of copyright were apprehended."

Just like the proverbial gold fish that has no hiding place, "pirates from now on would be looking over their backs as the commission would spare nothing to bring them to book."

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