By Dipo Olowookere
Chairman of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Mr Tony Okoroji, has called on lawyers across the country to re-exhibit courage in the battle against the factors that have militated against the progress of the Nigerian nation and ensure that they stand firm in promoting the values that that will see Nigeria through its present challenges.
“No great nation in the history of mankind has been built by cowards and Nigeria will not be an exception,” he said.
Mr Okoroji observed that it is beginning to appear that Nigerian lawyers who used to form a bulwark against corruption and abuse of power have gone cold.
The COSON boss made these comments while addressing a large gathering of members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at the 2016 Law Week of the Lagos Branch of the body, which took place at MUSON Centre, Onikan on Thursday, October 6, 2016 with the theme, ‘Judicial Independence and the Democratic Process.’
Mr Okoroji was insistent that for the Nigerian economy to rebound in a sustained manner, there needs to be a fundamental change in the nation’s mindset so that it is recognized at all levels of policy making that the economy of brick and mortar is gone and the knowledge economy has taken over.
According to him, respect for intellectual property rights is critical for the knowledge economy to thrive and lawyers have a significant role in ensuring that the respect for the rights of creative and innovative people becomes part of Nigerian culture so as to release the latent energy of thousands of creative and innovative Nigerians.
The former president of PMAN listed the people at the top of the world economy today–Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, J.K. Rolling, etc., and in each case observed that they are engaged in activities centred around the Knowledge economy.
“Do you think any of these persons would have acquired the enormous wealth they are associated with if they were operating in a Nigerian environment where the abuse of Intellectual Property rights is the norm?” he asked.
Mr Okoroji pointed at the significant progress COSON has made in so short a time saying that one of the key reasons for the progress is the robust and continuous use of the law courts to enforce intellectual property rights.
According to him, just six years ago, nobody gave COSON a chance, yet within the short period, COSON has collected and distributed hundreds of millions of Naira in copyright royalties to music copyright owners in Nigeria. In his words, “in a democracy, going to court is the one way to forestall the resort to machetes, brute force and anarchy.
“At COSON, when we go to court, we do not see the defendant as an enemy. We just believe that there is someone with whom we have different points of view and we have not been able to harmonize those views.
“We therefore take the facts and the law to a judge who is a trained independent arbiter to intervene. I consider the fact that we have yet to lose one case as evidence that our strategy is right~
Mr Okoroji asked the lawyers in the audience to advice their clients involved in intellectual property infringement that the landscape is changing rapidly and the cost of intellectual property infringement can now be quite expensive.
He said, “The brazen theft of a person’s intellectual property is also corruption.”