Friday, April 26, 2013

Do Your Part!

This week, we celebrate creativity and innovation by marking both World Book and Copyright Day (April 23) and World Intellectual Property Day (April 26).  This year’s theme for World Intellectual Property Day is Creativity: The Next Generation.  And for the next World Book and Copyright Day, in 2014, UNESCO has named Port Harcourt the “World Book Capital of the Year.”  This honor provides Nigerians with the opportunity to celebrate its writers, encourage reading among youth, and promote the UNESCO principles of freedom of expression, freedom to publish, and freedom to distribute information.

Governments around the world have an urgent responsibility to clarify, simplify and enforce the laws and regulations for doing business in each country, including laws pertaining to intellectual property.  Our writers, inventors, entrepreneurs and designers need to know they can work with colleagues from around the world and that their innovations will enjoy efficient, transparent and cost-effective legal protection worldwide.  And they need to know that those laws are not only on the books, but are enforced regularly and appropriately.

Inventors, scientists, and other creators devote an enormous amount of time and resources to their work.  In order to recoup those costs and make a living, they need to be paid for their work - and that’s what intellectual property rights allow.  Patents and copyright protection give inventors and authors exclusive rights to their creations for a limited period of time, so they can benefit financially from their work.  That protection, and the incentive it creates for people to devote their time and energy to innovation, is critically important.

Copyright is necessary to fostering an imaginative and enterprising society.  Some may complain that copyright protection only serves to limit access to creative works, since one must obtain permission before reprinting a copyrighted work.  The truth is, however, that copyright is actually a reward for creativity, and it’s one that encourages further creativity.  Copyright grants the creator of a literary, dramatic, artistic, musical, or other creative work ownership over his or her creation, and the right to reproduce, perform, display, or distribute (by sale or otherwise) the work, as he or she sees fit.  Copyright law recognizes the value in a creative product—a book, a play, a painting, a song, or a movie—and protects its creator.  By providing a core set of rights for creators of these works, the law encourages more and more people to produce.  In other words, the law allows credit to be given where credit is due—and by doing so, gives creators the right to benefit from their work.

Copyrights, while providing immediate rights to the creator of a work, are not unlimited.  There are certain important exceptions that allow the use of a copyrighted work for purposes of, for example, research, criticism, comment, or parody.  And when a copyright expires, the work becomes part of the public domain, for all to use freely.

Nigerian writers, musicians, and artists of all kinds have the right to protect their creations while contributing to the rich cultural and artistic heritage of their country.  Nigeria, with its talented and creative populace, has much to gain from strong copyright laws so long as they are effectively enforced.


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