By Vincent Ikuomola, Abuja
Accepting Intellectual Property (IP) as collateral assets will go a long way to support Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the creative sector, which will in turn, boost their contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. John O. Asein, said.
Asein, in a statement on World Intellectual Property (IP) Day, stated this like other IP assets, copyright has value, which should be exploited for sustainable national development.
“The Commission is prepared to work with relevant agencies and stakeholders to explore this area further”, he assured, adding that while the NCC would continue to support legitimate SMEs, “it frowns at illegal, unfair or unconscionable business practices”.
He also stressed that the theme for this year: “IP & SMEs: Taking your ideas to market”, underscored the place of SMEs in society and how the IP system could serve as a vehicle for moving their raw ideas to the market.
“SMEs are the backbones of national economies as they deliver goods and services, serve as incubators for innovations and as wellsprings of creativity,” he said.
Appealing to the public to accord SMEs the needed support by respecting their copyright, the Director-General underscored the commitment of the Commission to assisting SMEs with the needed administrative and legislative frameworks to facilitate their use of the copyright system in converting ideas to bankable assets and to engender investor confidence in the sector.
“The new Draft Copyright Bill, when eventually passed into law will give impetus to the growth of SMEs by providing adequate protection for them in the digital environment and on the many online platforms,” he stated.
He explained that under the present Act, “appropriate regulatory solutions are being developed to encourage better licensing practice and aid the effective use of flexibilities to grow copyright-related industries.
The areas of attention would include the activation of statutory and compulsory licensing provisions in the Third Schedule (dealing with cover versions of music) and the Fourth Schedule dealing with the grant of compulsory licences for translation and reproduction of certain works”.
“The Commission will also be improving the copyright registration system to make it more user-friendly and responsive to the needs of SMEs, taking cognizance of today’s market realities. The Commission is collaborating with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Center to promote the use of arbitration and mediation for speedy resolution of entertainment disputes,” he said.
He stated that within the context of its existing policy initiative, the Commission would provide safe corridors for copyright works from the point of creation to the market to guarantee return on intellectual investment.
The Director-General urged industry practitioners to complement the efforts of the Commission by paying more attention to the business side of their creative endeavours such as rights clearance, licensing, marketing strategies, rights management, dispute resolution and effective protection in order to ensure adequate returns on their intellectual and financial investment.
Decrying the criminal activities of pirates as a discouragement to investment, making it difficult for SMEs to thrive, he assured that the Commission would continue to promote a culture of respect for copyright and pursue a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of piracy in the copyright market.
Mr. Asein observed that SMEs accounted for over 90 percent of the world’s businesses and a significant portion of the global workforce. In his words, “The opportunities available to them in the creative space are limitless in today’s digital and online platforms. While every business starts with an idea, they need to be nurtured and exploited in a predictable, sustainable manner that adds to their market value.”
He also commended practitioners in the creative sector for giving Nigeria an industry to be proud of.