Can Nigeria lead the way in modernising outdated copyright laws through expanded exceptions?

When people talk and write about copyright, they generally mean US or EU laws. It’s true that most recent developments in the field – notably many bad ones – have taken place in these two geographic regions. But the dynamics among nations is changing. First came the BRIC group – Brazil, Russia, India, and China – all of whom are widely recognised as important global players. Now the focus is on the next group of economic and political powerhouses, the MINT nations: Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. As they grow, their copyright laws are likely to exert an increased influence elsewhere.

One of the MINT nations, Nigeria, is in the process of reforming its outdated 1988 copyright law. The IPKat blog has a detailed post by Chijioke Okorie explaining the current state of play. The situation is complicated by the fact that alongside the main executive Bill, there is also a private Bill aiming to update the old law. It is expected that the two will be combined into a harmonised Bill that will form the basis of the new copyright law in Nigeria.

As the IPKat post explains, the executive Bill is particularly strong when it comes to exceptions to copyright. These are increasingly seen as a legal way to break down the walls locking up so much creative material, freeing them for myriad new uses. The executive Bill proposes some general exceptions, including a “fair dealing” provision that is similar to the powerful US “fair use” approach. In addition:

The executive Bill also proposes some specific exceptions including those relating to acts for purpose of instruction or examination (section 21), recording of broadcasts by educational establishments (section 22), restrictions on reprographic copying by educational institutions (section 23), special provisions for archives, libraries, museums and galleries (sections 24 and 50(4)), compulsory licensing (sections 31-33 and 35) and the Marrakesh Treaty styled special exceptions for blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled persons (section 26).

The exceptions in the executive Bill, are not only important in their capacity to promote balance, openness and flexibility, but will also be significant models for the formulation of normative frameworks for the protection of persons with disabilities beyond the Marrakesh Treaty, and for safeguarding the interests of libraries, archives, and museums in the global copyright forum.

The second paragraph above raises an important point. Nigeria’s new copyright law may well serve as a template for the MINT nations, and other rising economies, as they revise their old laws in this domain. If Nigeria brings in wide-ranging copyright exceptions, they could ripple through dozens of legal systems as governments follow suit. Indeed, if Statista’s prediction that Nigeria’s population will reach 400 million in 2050 is correct, it is possible that the country will emerge as one of the trendsetters in copyright law not just for those countries, but for the entire world. Getting it right now is therefore of critical importance.

Featured image by Kabusa16.

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