For the past two years Nigeria has been praising the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) and its Director General, Adebambo Adewopo, for getting Nigeria removed from the Special 301 Lists. But inside sources say Nigeria was not removed from the Special 301 List, because Nigeria was never on the Special 301 List. This makes the Ippers ask "what's up?"
A two part series, we'll look first at what the Nigerian Press has been saying, and then at what's really going on.
The Special 301 List
What the Nigerians refer to as the Special 301 Lists is actually part of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report. This report "highlights shortfalls in intellectual property protection" and "acknowledges progress" by US trading partners. (Spicy IP has a good overview of the Special 301 Report and the controversy surrounding it.) The Report includes the following lists of countries whose laws or practices have adverse affects on IPRs: Priority Foreign Countries, Priority Watch List, and Watch List.
The first reports of Nigeria's removal from the Special 301 List came in May 2007. A Nigerian newspaper, The Vanguard, and an online news source, nun gu entertainment, both carried the story. "US delists Nigeria from piracy blackist, as govt moves to enforce IP regulation," read the online headline. Both articles cited the Deputy Economic Consular at the US Embassy as the source of the news. The online story also carried a direct quote, "We have decided to keep Nigeria off any of the 301 lists this year." Keep Nigeria off, not remove.
From there, other articles, editorials and speeches included the news. An article in Sun News used the "delisting" as evidence that Adewopo was doing a great job at the NCC and anyone saying otherwise was involved in a smear campaign against him. Lagos IP law firm Aluko & Oyebode included the wonderful news in their July newsletter.
In a few short months the removal of Nigeria from the Special 301 List was being touted as one of the NCC's greatest achievements. The Chief Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation congratulated Adewopo on his achievement. The President of the Federation also commended the NCC for its anti-piracy work.
By the beginning of 2008, the story had changed a bit. Several papers carried an article citing a June 2007 letter from the Former US Ambassador to Nigeria as the source of the information about Nigeria's delisting. Added to this was also a statement from the Attorney General that "Government was aware that until now, the country had always been on the U.S. Special 301, adding that the President has deemed the Commission as deserving of commendation in creating an enabling environment for the country’s unprecedented delisting." (The same info was carried in Sunday Benjamin's article in The Daily Trust.)
Stories about Nigeria's amazing feat spread beyond the country's borders. AllAfrica.com picked it up just a few months ago:
Recently, the Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC) got a rare pat on the back when the United States removed Nigeria from the Special 301 Lists of countries blacklisted for condoning intellectual property theft in recognition of the renewed battle against the increasing spate of piracy and counterfeiting.
In various seminars and paper presentations around the country, members of the Nigerian government continue to sing praises of the NCC's anti-piracy programs to the tune of the Special 301 delisting.
But the question remains, was Nigeria really removed from the lists in the USTR Special 301 Report?