After years of negotiation, the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances was adopted on June 24, 2012 at a diplomatic conference of member states of World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). Nigeria participated actively in the negotiation and also initialed the Constitutive Act of the treaty.
Therefore, to commemorate the landmark coming into force of the treaty eight years after, WIPO Nigeria in conjunction with the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) held a workshop (Webinar) on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
Themed: ‘Strengthening Nigeria’s Creative Sector through Improved Rights for Artists and Performers’, the workshop featured a panel discussion that explored opportunities and challenges for Nigerian performers through improved rights protection, as well as general awareness on the significance of the new treaty to the creative industry in Nigeria.
Panelists who examined the essence and prospects of the Beijing Treaty in impacting the fortunes of audiovisual performers included Oluwatobiloba Moody, Programme Officer, WIPO Nigeria Office; Carole Croella, Senior Counsellor, Copyright Law Division of WIPO; Mahmood Ali-Balogun, chairman, Audio Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS); Omoni Oboli, actress and producer; Kate Henshaw, actress; Justin Ige, Managing Partner, Creative Legal; Mike Akpan, Director, National Copyright Institute (NCI) of Nigerian Copyright Commission, with Chijioke Okorie, Lead Advisor, Penguide Advisory, moderating.
In his opening remarks, the NCC Director General, Mr. John Asein said Nigeria, in the ongoing reform of its copyright system, is taking steps towards the domestication of the provisions of the Beijing Treaty. Expressing concern over the loss of revenue in the audiovisual industry, he assured that the Commission would work with the guilds, associations and collective management organisation in the industry to develop appropriate mechanisms to ensure greater return on creative investment. According to him, such interventions would necessitate looking into various aspects of the industry, including engagement contracts, distribution bottlenecks, online abuses and rights management issues.
Noting that Nigeria’s film industry ranked among the top three in the world, Asein expressed worry that the ranking has not translated to real economic benefits and enhanced status for the performers who stand before the lights and cameras transforming scripts to action. “The current global pandemic has further amplified the vulnerability of creators – authors, musicians, actors and other performers – and it underscores the need to have a fallback system to sustain them beyond their active years and especially in time of economic downturn. These are people who generate or bring life to the copyright works that we enjoy but in most cases they do not have access to any form of pension or gratuity,” he stated.
In their remarks, Omoni Oboli and Kate Henshaw called for intensified enforcement interventions against piracy to ensure sustainable development of the Nigerian film industry. “The Treaty is great but the challenge is piracy. As a producer, I want my rights protected and earn better. Piracy is affecting producers; they are not making their money back,” Oboli stated.
She advised performers to build their brands considering that broadcasting organisations sign contracts with producers who paid performers based on their marketability.
Ali Balogun observed the benefits of the Beijing Treaty in according performers the performance rights to be identified with their performances, the right of communication of their performances to the public and moral right to the integrity of their performances. He called for an early domestication of the Treaty and for a more effective regulation and enforcement of rights in the digital environment.
WIPO’s Carole Croella said that the Treaty provided an international framework and a balanced approach to guarantee the economic right of audiovisual performers, among others. She noted that Nigerian authorities represented by NCC officials played a significant role in the negotiation of the Treaty.
Observing that Nigeria has a comparative advantage in the creative industry, Croella stated: “We are confident that the NCC has all the expertise for the success of the Treaty but WIPO is willing to support the Commission.”
Speaking on ‘Future Opportunities for Nigeria’s Creative Industry’, Justin Ige observed that the Treaty distinguished performers’ rights from producers’, adding that it created a separate stream of income for performers. “I suggest that NCC should make the right to equitable remuneration inalienable and guaranteed under the statute. This does not put any burden on the producer but on the broadcasting and streaming organisations.” he remarked.
On his part, Mike Akpan indicated that the adoption of the Treaty coincided with the drafting of a new Copyright Bill approved by the Federal Executive Council and pending consideration by the National Assembly. He added that the draft Copyright Bill has made provisions for all the rights granted performers under the Treaty.
“In general terms, the draft bill also contains provisions for proactive measures towards dealing with online infringements; safeguards for technological protection measures (TPMs) and rights management information (RMI) systems; and provisions for administrative mechanisms of resolving royalty issues arising from remuneration due to performers in the use of their fixed performances,” he explained.
Akpan stated that the Commission would broker discussions among key stakeholders to engender effective implementation of the Treaty in a manner that would ensure that performers could fully appropriate the benefits of their rights. He said further that the model contracts issued by the Commission would serve as guidance to practitioners in the various copyright industries as a head start for repositioning the sector for a new regime of rights created by both the Beijing Treaty and the anticipated Copyright Bill.