Niger’s Music & Audiovisual Professionals Profit from Copyright Education – IFCD making an Impact

Empowering creative professionals in Niger with key information on copyright laws has contributed towards strengthening the industry and the country’s creative economy. Statistics from 2013 show that Niger’s exports of cultural goods have been increasing over the years with the total export of cultural goods at US $220,000 up from US $50,000 in 2012.

However, with the widespread use of Internet, problems related to piracy have increased significantly; today in most African countries, around 90% of all copyrighted materials suffer from piracy.

Niger has managed to develop effective legislation which encourages cultural and creative professionals to work in a secure legal framework, employing copyright laws in particular.

From the adoption of the first national copyright instrument and the establishment of the Niger Copyright Bureau (BNDA) to the recent adoption of legislation strengthening copyright protection, considerable, efforts have been made to strengthen the country’s creative industries.

But without a strong communication effort directed towards the public, these measures remain ineffective. Bal’lame, a local NGO, set out to change the situation and strengthen public awareness on copyright, recognizing it as a necessary condition for the emergence of a dynamic and profitable creative sector.

Bal’lame’s work revolves around organizing cultural events, training in the arts and culture, awareness-raising campaigns in communities and experiential exchange with other NGOs active in the field of culture. The NGO was given a grant by the International Fund Cultural Diversity (IFCD) in 2011 to finance a project which consisted of two components, training and awareness-raising for artists and creative professionals and a mass media communication campaign.

Bal’lame held three training courses in the capital, Niamey, which were led by local experts. The first was for 40 authors, producers, managers, studio owners and distributors of cultural products. The second targeted the managers of community radio stations and private television channels as intermediaries in the awareness-raising operation. The third training course was for persons concerned primarily with copyright enforcement, namely judges, magistrates and members of associations that champion the defense of human rights. This series of training courses gave an insight into basic copyright concepts and international treaties and conventions on the subject and cover Niger’s copyright legislation, and examples of copyright infringement and related penalties. Lastly, the procedures for starting a business in Niger were also examined to give creative entrepreneurs support.

The media campaign reached out to owners of community radio stations and private television channels, requesting them to convey key messages to the public at large, while judges, magistrates, members of associations and culture journalists were trained in how to implement copyright legislation. Authors, producers, and their investors were trained on basic legal concepts to ensure dissemination and sale of their works.

Bal’lame also organised the staging of six televised debates, two in French and four in national languages, such as Zema and Hausa with each debate being broadcasted repeatedly. Television spots on copyright laws were also carried on nationwide media, such as Télé Sahel, Télé Ténéré, Voix du Sahel and Radio Ténéré and on 16 community radio stations.

The result of this unprecedented awareness campaign? First, a notable increase in the number of authors and artists who voluntarily adhere to the Niger Copyright Bureau (BNDA), proof that the campaign successfully raised awareness of the importance of copyright protection. Another positive impact was the increasing number of requests for prior authorization made to the BNDA by anxious users. This is the case not only among cassette and CD sellers, but also phone companies and web designers.

According to Doudou Hassane, President of the Association of Sellers and K7 CD, "This project gave us the opportunity to become better sensitized to the issue of artists' rights. We now have a clear idea of how to conduct our trade legally and in peace. We also understood that it is possible to safely invest in the cultural area".

The IFCD was established under the umbrella of the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and its goal is to invest in projects that lead to structural changes in societies and contribute towards sustainable development. Since 2010, the IFCD has invested some US$ 5.8 million in  84 projects in 49 developing countries

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