How to update copyright: Nigeria shows the way for Africa – and the world

Too often the posts on Walled Culture are about the latest copyright madness, or new laws making copyright even worse for the digital world. Against this background, it’s good to read that, as this blog hoped back in 2021, something positive has just happened in Nigeria that is likely to have important ramifications across the African continent and beyond. Infojustice explains:

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to a new copyright act that updates the country’s exceptions and limitations for the digital environment. Most significantly, the act replaces a closed fair dealing provision based on the English copyright law with an open provision modeled on the U.S. Copyright Act’s fair use right. The adoption of an open fair dealing provision by Africa’s largest producer of copyrighted material should put to rest arguments elsewhere on the continent that open exceptions are inimical to copyright industries.

This battle over moves to adopt an open-ended fair dealing based on the US approach, rather than one with a limited list of permitted exceptions and limitations, is an important one that is happening all around the world. Open-ended fair use is clearly more helpful for dealing with developments in technology that were never envisaged when old copyright laws were drawn up. They allow at least a basic flexibility in the way that copyright is applied, for example online.

Once again, the current resistance to countries adopting adopting fair use or open norms is the result of the copyright industry refusing to allow any legal developments that favour the public or indeed anyone except themselves. A good example of the fierce battles being fought is South Africa, where President Ramaphosa sent the Copyright Amendment Bill back to Parliament after it was passed, largely because of lobbying by copyright supporters against its fair use provisions.

Nigeria’s new law is important because the country is already a leader in Africa, and is predicted to become one of the world’s top economies. What happens in Nigeria matters, because it sets an important precedent for other rising nations looking to update their outdated copyright laws to maximise the benefits of the digital world by adopting open norms.

Featured image by Kabusa16.

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