This is part two of a two part series looking at Nigeria's status in regards to the US Trade Representative Special 301 Report. In part 1, we discussed the praise the Nigerian Copyright Commission and its Director General, Adebambo Adewopo, have received for getting Nigeria removed from the USTR Special 301 Report. Today, we are looking at what's really going on.
For two years, the Nigerian press and various government officials have been citing Nigeria's removal from the Special 301 List as proof of the Nigerian Copyright Commission's success in its war on piracy. This "list" is the USTR Special 301 Report. The report actually includes three lists, each containing countries whose laws or practices have adverse affects on IPRs: Priority Foreign Countries, Priority Watch List, and Watch List.
The Real Deal
It seems somewhere along the way, someone in Nigeria got confused. Nigeria was never on any of the lists contained in the Special 301 Report, at least not this century. Previous reports appear to only be available from the Library of Congress. (Thank you to a very kind reference librarian at Vanderbilt University for that information.) A few Special 301 Reports have mentioned Nigeria, but always to cite activities from the past year that have protected IPR. (Special 301 Reports from 2002 through the current year are available at the USTR website; the 2001 report is available here.)
The closest Nigeria has come to being on these lists has been inclusion in the International Intellectual Property Alliance's (IIPA) reports suggesting which countries the USTR should place on the various lists contained in the Special 301 Report. IIPA is a group of trade associations that, among other things, assists the US Trade Representative with its Special 301 Report. IIPA prepares its own report of suggestions for the USTR to consider in compiling its report. (IIPA Reports from 2001-2008 available here.)
IIPA first gave Nigeria a "special mention" in 2005, citing outrageous piracy levels in sound recordings and the proliferation of optical disc replicating plants. Concerns over optical disc plants kept Nigeria in this section through 2006. Last year, IIPA suggested putting Nigeria on the Watch List. This year, the organization made the same suggestion. So in fact, Nigeria is closer than ever to being listed in the Special 301 Report. Rather than celebrating the "accomplishment" of being taken off a list they were never on, members of the Nigerian intellectual property community should be working hard to reverse the trend of increased attention from IIPA. This will help Nigeria stay off the Special 301 Report lists.