Role of copyright in education

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If the recent submission of the former Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Professor Joseph Ajienka, that the inability of Nigerian scholars to translate theory into practice is stifling the country’s universities’ to be ranked among leading tertiary institutions in the world is anything to go by, then the future of Nigeria’s education is bleak.

Ajienka in his paper titled, “Research As Enterprise: Building Innovation, Commercialization, Entrepreneurship (ICE) Ecosystem” said Nigerian tertiary institutions are not ranked high among other universities across the world because of the lukewarm attitude of Nigerian scholars towards translating research works into innovation.

To him, policy of publish or perish has not helped any university.
What the professor of Chemical Engineering considered to be ultimate was that every researcher that discovers something new must first protect that new knowledge through patenting and then go through innovation process to develop new products.

The conspicuous absence of accepting these copyright laws and their implementation in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions accounts largely for the nation’s perpetual backwardness.

Besides, for education to stand on a sound footing, institutionalization of the sector, a well-structured intellectual property rights and a meticulous political will must be prioritized.

Among the pillars upon which a well functional educational system is rested is copyright law, which gives the sector the necessary dimensions and directions for the attainment of greatness in line with global practices.

The development of a nation is directly proportional to its educational system.
It is, therefore, disheartening that Nigerian constitution seems to lack the copyright prerequisite the effective adjudication and litigation when issues of violation of intellectual property rights come to the front burner.

The implication is that intellectually inclined properties have now become a jungle where everything goes, a development that ultimately paves the way for unbridled incursion of users into various intellectual properties without following the laid down procedures for gaining access to other’s works, thereby reducing the users to academic slavery and perpetual dependants.

It therefore implies that African perpetual underdevelopment and Nigerian dwindling growth in particular could be best ascribed to the identifiable lacuna in the educational sector.
For the country’s education to regain its lost glory, certain educational policies including copyright laws must be given their right sense of place.

This requires horrendous tasks by the nation’s policy makers, stakeholders, and all lovers of the sector to individually and collectively do the needful.

National Copyright Commission (NCC), Nigerian Copyright Act, Strategic Action against Piracy (STRAAP), Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN), Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers (SACEM), etc are geared towards preventing an exclusive right conferred on authors of copyright works.

These rights actually forbid other users to exploit people’s works without authorization.
Nigeria has missed a lot of opportunities simply because of researchers’ attitude to comply with copyright laws.
A typical example was a case of a Professor from the University of Port Harcourt (name withheld) who developed a supplement for sickle cell anaemia.

Today it has been accepted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and a drug has been produced for sickle cell.
Unfortunately, the University of Port Harcourt did not benefit from this groundbreaking discovery because the institution did not encourage the researcher when he was in that research.

Similarly, the University of Ibadan did not benefit from the work of its professor who developed a machine for pounding yam because they don’t have intellectual property and research policy to benefit from the discovery.
A low temperature refrigerator was recently invented by Dr Kamoldeen Ajijolakewu of Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Ilorin.

The product has capacity to freeze water or any liquid within three minutes.
It was presented for exhibition at the 7th Trade Fair between March and April, 2018 at Baseball, Adewole, Ilorin, Kwara state.

The refrigerator, which is very unique and more effective, is a product of thorough research jointly hatched by Dr Ajijolakewu and Engineer Musbau Babatunde J.

On the need to provide the product with the exclusive right, Dr Ajijolakewu explained that the authority of the University Ilorin had commenced plans towards that effect.

A number of benefits are attached to the strict adherence to the copyright laws.
They include owners’ (authors) self-confidence, springing up of new ideas, availability of strong institutions and boosting the country’s GDP for sustainable economic development.

If these and several other benefits are put in place, everyowner of intellectual properties will ultimately triumph with envy and the awareness of the protection of their works will actually give them the assurance that there is going be light at the end of the tunnel.
The emergence of the original works will resurface in quick succession, as adequate knowledge reparation will serve as a morale booster to authors of various copyrighted materials.

By the time people are prevented from relying on other people’s works, more thinkers will emerge and join the existing ones in critical thinking that will metamorphose into groundbreaking discoveries and inventions that will be of significant impact to the advancement of the nation.

Tertiary institutions, especially universities, are expected to key into the idea of conducting thorough plagiarism tests on all academic works particularly undergraduate projects and postgraduate theses in order to discourage copying other people’s works and at the same encourage new ideas, innovations and lifechanging discoveries.

Any project found to be a photocopy of the existing one should be rejected – good riddance to bad rubbish.
If these measures are put in place and the laws are followed strictly without minding whose ox is gored, the country’s education system will be given a face-lift and the society will reap the benefits with education being the hallmark of the society.

NOTE: It was first published by Blueprint Newspaper on 20th of July, 2018

Babatunde Layiwola Isiaka writes from Directorate of Corporate Affairs, University of Ilorin, Ilorin

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