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Copyright And The Protection Of Creatives – Copyright

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This article serves the purpose of educating creatives on the
importance of copyright laws in Nigeria. It also provides insight
into the major aspects of copyrights, its protection, and their
implication on creatives. 

It is worthy of note that the principal law that governs
copyrights in Nigeria is the Copyright Act LFN 2004, and the
government agency that is responsible for the regulation and
administration of copyright in Nigeria is the Nigerian
Copyright Commission (NCC). 

The Copyright Act (the Act) makes provision for the protection,
transfer, infringement, and remedies for the infringement of
copyrights in Nigeria.

It is important to note that not all creative works are eligible
for copyright.  Section 1(1) of the Copyright
Act LFN 2004 states that the following listed works qualify
for copyright:

  • Literary works;

  • Musical works;

  • Artistic works;

  • Cinematograph films;

  • Sound recordings.

Section 1(2) of the Copyright Act provides that a literary,
musical, or artistic work shall not be eligible to be copyrighted
except the following occurs:

  • Sufficient effort was expended in making the work to give it
    its original character;

  • The work has been fixed in a definite medium of expression that
    is now known or to be developed later from which it can be
    perceived either directly or with the aid of any machine.

The above conditions must be fulfilled before a creative work
can be deemed a copyright under the Nigerian law.  

Let us consider the elements for copyright above.

Originality:  To be original, a work must
not be derived from another and must have been created
independently. It should not be an adaptation or a reproduction of
another person’s work. It also suffices to mention that such
work must be a product of creative expression that falls under a
category of copyrightable subject matter. 

Fixed:   In this instance, a work
must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression. An eligible work
is deemed copyrighted the moment the work is fixed. A work is
considered to be fixed so long as it is sufficiently permanent or
stable to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a
period of more than transitory duration. In other words, an idea
cannot form a copyright because it is a collection of thoughts and
is not fixed in a medium of expression. 

Duration of copyright

It is important to note that copyright does not vest in the
author forever. The First Schedule to Copyright Act LFN 2004
provides for the duration of copyright protection in a
work: 

  • For literary, musical, and artistic work other than
    photographs; the Copyright Act stipulates seventy years after the
    end of the year in which the author dies and in the case of a
    government or a body corporate, seventy years, after the end of the
    year in which the work was first published.

  • For Cinematograph films and photograph; the Copyright Act
    stipulates fifty years after the end of the year in which the work
    was first published.

  • For sound recordings, the Copyright Act stipulates fifty years
    after the end of the year in which the recording was first
    published.

  • For broadcasts, the Copyright Act stipulates fifty years after
    the end of the year in which the broadcast first took place.

Registration of a copyright 

A voluntary copyright registration scheme has been established
by The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), to enable authors and
right owners to notify the commission of the creation and existence
of a work.

A person is required to submit an application personally or
through an agent for registration to any office of the NCC
nationwide. A complete registration form, copies of the work, and
evidence of payment of the prescribed fee must be submitted to the
commission. 

Copyright infringement

Investopedia defines Copyright infringement as the use or
production of copyright-protected material without the permission
of the copyright holder. It further defines copyright infringement
as the rights afforded to the copyright holder, such as the
exclusive use of a work for a set period of time, are being
breached by a third party.

Section 15 of the Copyright Act provides for the
infringement of Copyright in Nigeria. Copyright is infringed by any
person who, without the licence or authorisation of the owner of
the Copyright does the following acts:

  • Does or causes any other person to do an act, the doing of
    which is controlled by copyright.

  • Import or causes to be imported into Nigeria any copy of a work
    which it had been made in Nigeria would be an infringing copy.

  • Exhibit in public any article in respect of which copyright is
    infringed.

  • Distributes by way of trade, offers for sale, hires, or
    otherwise for the purpose prejudicial to the owner of the copyright
    any article in respect of which copyright is infringed.

  • Makes or has in his possession plates, master tapes, machines,
    equipment, or contrivances used for making infringed copies of the
    work.

  • Permits a place of public entertainment or business to be used
    for a performance in public of the work, where the performance
    constitutes an infringement of the copyright in work, unless the
    person permitting the place to be used not aware, and had no
    reasonable ground for suspecting the performance would be an
    infringement of the copyright.

  • Performs or causes to be performed for trade or business or as
    supporting facility to a trade or business, any work in which
    copyright subsists.

Institution of copyright infringement

An action on infringement may be brought by the owner of the
copyright, an assignee or an exclusive licensee to the Federal High
Court exercising jurisdiction where the infringement occurred. Such
reliefs by way of injunction or damages shall be available to the
plaintiff.

Also, an action relating to the infringement of copyright may be
civil or criminal. A civil action may arise between two parties. On
the other hand, the NCC may institute criminal
action against the infringer. Notably, a civil and criminal action
may run simultaneously on the same fact of infringement, and the
criminal action may subsist even if the parties had settled the
civil claim.

Remedies of infringement

There are remedies available to authors of copyright works whose
copyrights have been infringed upon. For example, they may write a
letter of demand that, the person infringing their copyrights stop
the infringement, deliver all original and copies of the infringed
work to them and pay compensation for use of their work. 

In the event that the infringing party does not respond to such
demand, the copyright owner can commence an action at the Federal
High Court, seeking to claim damages for the infringement and an
injunction preventing the infringer from further perpetrating such
act.

Furthermore, there are criminal liabilities for any persons that
infringe on another’s copyright. Specifically, Section 20 of
the Copyright Act provides that a person who makes or causes to be
made for sale, hire, or for the purpose of trade or business any
infringing copy of a work in which copyright subsist or imports or
causes to be imported into Nigeria a copy of any work which if had
been made in Nigeria would be an infringing copy or make or causes
to be made, or has in his possession any plate, master tape,
machine, equipment or contrivance for the purpose of making any
infringing copy of any such is criminally liable. The punishment
upon conviction is five years of imprisonment or a fine or
both.

Conclusion

Copyright is an important aspect of intellectual property that
should be taken seriously by every creative in this era, as it
plays a crucial role in protecting the value and interests of
creatives and provides opportunity for creatives to fully exploit
the works created by them. It provides an avenue for the balance of
a creative’s desire for financial rewards and a user’s
access to the creative work for societal benefits.

Originally Published by World Intelectual Property Review
(WIPR).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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