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Nigerian authors call for review of sanctions for piracy

Piracy is the bane of the creative industries in Nigeria. Take a drive through any of our major cities and you will see pirate copies of the latest music albums, Nollywood films and books being hawked on the streets. There is no consensus on how much piracy costs our creative industries, but from various sources, it is estimated that it costs billions of Naira in lost revenue for the creators of the works and all those that contribute to the value chain. The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) has called on the Government to adopt measures to deal with infringers, including monitoring infringements online. Our Copyright Act already has provisions dealing with piracy, but arguably they do not quite go far enough.

Under the Act, making pirate copies for sale is punishable with a fine of ₦1,000 per copy and/or 5 years imprisonment. In the UK, the same offence can attract an unlimited fine and/or 10 years in prison. Persons that sell or distribute pirate copies in Nigeria may be sentenced to a fine of ₦100 per copy and/or 2 years in prison. In the UK, selling pirates is punishable with a £5,000 fine and/or 3 months in prison, and the maximum sentence for distribution is an unlimited fine and/or 10 years imprisonment.

On the whole, the punishment for piracy in the UK is harsher and poses sufficient disincentive to commit these offences. The same cannot be said in Nigeria. For example, a pirate album usually sells for ₦250, whereas the fine is ₦100 per copy. Beyond that our Copyright Act is yet to be updated to take into consideration technological advancement and the digital age. Therefore, the Act does not explicitly criminalise online piracy.

The Government is not giving piracy the attention it deserves, possibly because on the list of problems in the country, piracy is not high. Most likely though, it is because the Government is yet to fully recognise the impact, both social and economic, that piracy has. Until the Government does so, even if stricter penalties for piracy are adopted, it is unlikely to set aside the resources to adequately enforce them.

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