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As copyright lawyers in Nigeria, we are consulted both by Publishing houses and authors who approach us seeking advice and solutions on what to do when there is mass photocopying of their books or articles.
Photocopying books and articles are commonplace in many countries including in Nigeria. It has to be kept in mind that Photocopying without permission is a form of copyright violation. Often time a defense used against copyright violation is fair use. Fair use can be used in an educational setting but if there is indiscriminate use, then this defence might not stand in a court of law.
Nigeria is a signatory to the Universal Copyright Convention 1952, the Berne Conventions of 1886 and 1971 for the protection of rights in literary, musical and artistic works and the Rome Convention of 1961 for the protection of performers, producers, broadcasting organizations. The aim of conventions is to enable countries give the same protection to the works of the nationals of other countries as they give to their nationals.
The word ‘photocopying’ refers to a wide range of methods for reproducing text on a long-term basis. Causal link, subconscious copying, indirect copying, significant taking, and unmodified copying are all examples of copying. In a country like Nigeria, the seller of pirated audio and video cassettes, the shopkeeper selling pirated versions of famous textbooks, and the student who photocopies an entire textbook for his own use are all responding to the issue in their own manner. In Nigeria, indiscriminate photocopying of intellectual materials is one of the most common methods to violate an author’s right. Many Nigerians turn to indiscriminate photocopying of copyrighted works as a consequence of the expensive cost of books, particularly international literature. Scholars lament that this scenario, along with a scarcity of books, has resulted in a surge in the photocopying industry in Nigeria. Today, photocopying or illegal copies of copyright works are rampant, and such infringement has become a culture, with complete disregard for the rights of copyright owners. This situation is linked to Nigeria’s poor copyright awareness, which has also made finding a practical solution to the photocopying problem one of humanity’s most challenging challenges.
Because of the scarcity of books, photocopying has become a profitable industry in Nigeria, to the point that photocopying of literature without regard for copyright laws has become the standard, and a problem worth investigating. Photocopying library materials serves a variety of purposes in the Nigerian educational system; it is used to disseminate knowledge on a wide scale among students, professors, and researchers in Nigeria’s higher institutions, as well as to keep the educational system running.
One of librarians’ most important responsibilities is to ensure that everyone has access to knowledge in order to foster the development of new intellectual property. The availability of photocopying services for users is one method to make access simpler. The practice of photocopying at the library also protects library books against mutilation and theft. However, photocopying of copyright materials should adhere to the established guidelines because not every student has the financial means to purchase all of the information resources required for their studies, and as a result, students have come to rely on photocopying for survival in their studies and researches. Because there are insufficient textbooks in university libraries to accommodate the huge student population, as well as the inability of students to purchase foreign textbooks, photocopying operations exceed the limitations allowed by copyright law.
Despite its use, it has been claimed that photocopying presents a threat to growth and development due to the high rate of photocopying activities occurring in various areas of the globe. It is critical to recognize that, despite the terrible reality of the current economic situation in Nigeria or elsewhere, there is no legitimate justification for one to rob another to live. The severe impact is further mitigated by the existence of libraries. Rather than infringing on the legitimate rights of copyrighted owners of creative works, a library may be used to get books that are not widely available. Any act or omission that deprives an owner of copyrightable work of the rewards of his labor is illegal, dishonest, and deceitful. Others’ works should not be used without their permission unless the copyright owner has given permission or the usage falls within the exceptions set out in the law under the concept of fair use. The Fair Use/Dealing Concept Fair use is a copyright concept that allows for exceptions to copyright law. Fair dealing refers to the handling of an author’s work with sincerity and with a legitimate aim, according to the definition of “fair use.” The concept of fair use, which has evolved through time, recognizes uses of copyrighted content that are not within the copyright owner’s control. Under the fair dealing concept, a person is not obliged to get permission from the copyright owner before making a copy (Rubin, 2000). Acts done in good faith for the purposes of study, private use, criticism, or evaluation of current event reporting are exempted from copyright control, according to the Second Schedule to the Copyright Act, Cap C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.. In other words, whether a work is utilized for study, private use, critique or review, or reporting on current events, there is no issue of infringement of the copyright in that work if it is done in a fair manner. The doctrine applies only to infringements of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, and the question of substantiality is important because it is one of the main criteria for determining whether the use of a work in fact constitutes fair dealing, so photocopying the entirety of a large work of copyright cannot be justified on the basis that the purpose is to make a profit. It is required that the work be accompanied with a suitable acknowledgement under the guise of fair dealing. Fair use is a defense to a copyright infringement allegation. This is to promote growth, creativity, and innovation. The concept of fair use is essential because new works are anticipated to draw from previous works, since it is impossible to make any advance in an area of knowledge without considering what has been done in that subject before the present study. The concept of fair dealing is based on the goal of increasing reasonable access to protected content. It is definitely not an excuse for cheaters to benefit from someone else’s hard work and creativity. It’s worth noting that a library’s reproduction of works for the sake of preservation and security, or for research usage in another library, is covered by the exemption (Bush & Co.). Users of information and information owners had reached an understanding through fair use that educators and researchers can use portions of works without permission for educational and research purposes, including the conversion of works into formats that are user-friendly for various groups of people, such as those with disabilities. Fair use must be maintained, in addition to establishing a balance between information owners and users, so that copyright ownership does not become an absolute monopoly over the distribution and access to copyrighted material. The elimination of this provision would have a significant impact on research, education, and the functioning of a free society.