A Code of Ethics for Booksellers will soon be introduced by Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) in consultation with relevant stakeholders to bring sanity to book business in Nigeria.
Director-General of NCC, Mr. John O. Asein, who revealed this during a virtual launch of The Nigerian Booksellers E-Directory 2021 published by the Booksellers Association of Nigeria (BAN), on 24th March 2021, signaled that the Commission would intensify efforts at checking the sale of pirated books through physical and online outlets.
According to Vincent Oyefeso, Director, Public Affairs of the NCC, the DG, who was Chairman at the book launch, stated: “It is now time to separate the wheat from the chaff and encourage legitimate booksellers while weeding out the criminals who, as charlatans in this field have brought so much disrepute to the trade”.
He charged booksellers and other stakeholders in the book industry to adhere to rules and regulations guiding the book trade and its distribution channel in the country. He also expressed hope that the industry would continue to promote peer to peer regulation and internal control measures to complement Government effort.
Mr. Asein commended the launch of the Booksellers Directory as a welcome catalyst in the Commission’s effort to develop a reliable database of practitioners in the different copyright-based industries.
“As part of our broader enforcement strategies to arrest copyright piracy in Nigeria, the Commission has adopted a multipronged approach, focusing on the different players and subsectors in the value chain. We are talking with authors, publishers, printers and of course booksellers. Booksellers are often the face of the book industry. They interface directly with buyers and ultimately play a very critical role in guaranteeing that the customer purchases a genuine copy of the book”, he noted.
He expressed concern that among the legitimate booksellers were also pirates, importers and distributors of pirated materials. He indicated that to stem the level of book piracy, the Commission has intensified its surveillance of booksellers in the open markets, business premises, airports, hotels, online platforms, and on the streets, adding that the sale of pirated books in any of those outlets would, henceforth, be met with the appropriate response.
He advised all booksellers to always have proof of purchase and ensure that they patronise only credible outlets as the Commission would hold them responsible for any infringing material found in their stock.
He reminded the audience that the Commission was already engaging with Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) to rid the streets of hawkers of books and other copyright materials, many of them pirated. That intervention, he added, was in addition to the ongoing discussions with right owners about the use of antipiracy devices to help members of the public better identify genuine copyright works.
Expressing worry at the threat of piracy to the nation’s bourgeoning creative industry and the impoverishment of authors, the Director-General commended the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for the success recorded so far in checking illicit importation of infringing copyright materials. He, however, noted that more still needed to be done as available intelligence showed that many container loads of pirated books still find their way into the country.
According to the Director-General, the Commission would continue to collaborate with BAN to promote professionalism and encourage legitimate booksellers in order to allow publishers recoup their investment, reward authors and significantly improve on the contribution of the book sector to the nation’s economy. “This is particularly needful with the challenges faced in the industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic”, he added.
He added that the Commission would be working with the Association and other major stakeholders to deploy appropriate safeguards and regulatory interventions to help the industries recover speedily from the pandemic.
Calling for a change in the way practitioners carry on book business in Nigeria, Mr. Asein urged other major stakeholders in the copyright industry to publish similar directories to help identify legitimate practitioners in their respective sectors.
He observed that the Booksellers’ Directory would assist in raising the standard of book trade in the country and provide a credible source of information for publishers, schools, libraries, members of the public and those that would require the services of a bookseller.
“It would also provide the needed trade information and promote access to Nigerian books from outside the country”, he emphasised.
Earlier, the President of BAN, Mr. Dare Oluwatuyi, noted that the directory, a compendium of contacts and addresses of genuine booksellers across the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), was one of the Association’s projects initiated to reorganise the sector to serve the public better.
Welcoming stakeholders to the forum, Mr. Oluwatuyi said the Association would continue to update the directory while also working to sanitise and boost the book trade in the country.
He expressed appreciation to the Commission and its various stakeholders for their support and contribution to the regulation of the sector.
Among over 70 CEOs and stakeholders that participated in the webinar, many commended the BAN initiative in launching the e-directory.